A report from Nebraska Farm Bureau’s Governmental Relations team.

Interim Hearings – Education Spending

Even though the Legislature is not in session, committees continue to meet to hear testimony on interim studies introduced last session. This week, NEFB testified in front of the Education Committee, which heard Legislative Resolution (LR) 153 – Sen. Groene’s interim study to examine the administrative costs of local systems and school districts and investigate methods for reducing such costs. When it comes to reducing property taxes, NEFB state policy reads, “spending reductions achieved by controlling local administrative costs and prioritizing and sharing government services should be an integral part of reducing property taxes.”

Hemp Status

Interest continues to grow about the possibilities of industrial hemp. Ten Nebraska farms received approval this summer to begin growing industrial hemp. Formal rules from the Nebraska Department of Agriculture are expected by December, at which point they will need USDA approval. The program should be ready to go by the 2020 growing season. You will still need to apply to the Nebraska Department of Agriculture for a license to grow, transport, and process hemp, but there will be no caps on the number of growers/processors.

Property Taxes in the News

After a stop in rural Nebraska, Omaha and surrounding metro area legislators – many of whom serve on the Revenue (tax-writing) Committee – heard first-hand about the burden of property taxes at a forum hosted by the Platte Institute. Omaha Sen. Mike McDonnell urged those in attendance to “tell their stories” and even “pressure” lawmakers to do something about property taxes.

U.S. and Japan Ink Trade Deal

On September 25, President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe signed a trade deal which will lower or eliminate tariffs on over $7 billion in agricultural products. Nebraska Farm Bureau (NEFB) released a statement here. The statement further laid out NEFB’s other trade priorities now that the Japanese agreement had been reached. “With this vital agreement now checked off the ‘Trade To-Do’ list, the passage of the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and reaching a deal with China must be next. It is time to send a clear message to the rest of the world: The United States is open for business,” Nelson said.

Senate Ag Committee Holds Hearing on Livestock Industry

On September 25, the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing focused in on the state of the nation’s livestock industry and what changes might be needed to the Livestock Mandatory Price Reporting law which will need to be reauthorized next year. Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer focused in on cattle industry and what producers were hearing in the countryside following the fire at the Tyson facility in Holcomb, Kan. Those testifying on behalf of the beef industry indicated that they were appreciative of the actions USDA had taken following the fire. Shortly after the fire, Nebraska Farm Bureau (NEFB) sent a letter to USDA Under Secretary Greg Ibach asking for his immediate attention to ensure there were no regulatory issues that might affect the likely slaughter shift that would occur following the fire. The letter also asked that the Packers and Stockyards division closely monitor the major market shifts that took place following the fire. Within a week of NEFB’s letter being sent, USDA Sec. Sonny Perdue opened a full Packers and Stockyards investigation into the market reactions to the event. NEFB is anxious to see the results of that investigation.

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