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

Roads Funding Coalition Resumes

Nebraska Farm Bureau is part of a coalition of diverse stakeholders, established several years ago, focused on sustainability in roads funding. The coalition gathered this week to discuss any threats to the continuation of the “Build Nebraska Act” or LB 84, a bill introduced in 2011 by then-State Senator Deb Fischer, which established a 20-year road construction funding mechanism, directing one-quarter of one percent of all sales tax revenue to roads funding. In addition to defending the LB 84 funding stream, the coalition discussed increasing annual fees on alternative fuel vehicles and establishing a minimum average price of gasoline to calculate the gas tax, to avoid roads funding falling short when prices dip. NEFB is committed to defending and possibly augmenting transportation and infrastructure funding, even as the Legislature continues grappling with property tax relief.

Interim Hearing on Rules and Regs:

On Friday, the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee hosted hearings on LR 92, Sen. John Lowe’s interim study to examine the processes for adopting, promulgating, and eliminating rules and regulations. The committee also held a hearing on Sen. Lowe’s LR 187, a study to determine the feasibility and fiscal impact of hiring outside consultants to perform an efficiency review of state agencies.

EPA Proposes Changes to Pesticide Application Exclusion Zone Requirements

This week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed an update to a 2015 rule which would require agricultural employers (farmers and ranchers) keep non-applicator workers and individuals out of an area called the “application exclusion zone” (AEZ) during outdoor pesticide applications. The AEZ is the area surrounding pesticide application equipment that exists only during outdoor production pesticide applications. The AEZ will remain 25-feet in all directions for ground pesticide applications, and 100-feet in all directions for outdoor airborne pesticide applications.

Specifically, the EPA is proposing the following:

  • Modify the AEZ so it is applicable and enforceable only on a farm owner’s property, where a farm owner can lawfully exercise control over employees and bystanders who could fall within the AEZ. These proposed changes would enhance both enforcement and implementation of the AEZ for state regulators and farm owners respectively.
  • Immediate family members of farm owners are exempt from all aspects of the AEZ requirement.
  • Clarify that pesticide applications that are suspended due to individuals entering an AEZ may be resumed after those individuals have left the AEZ.
  • Simplify the criteria for deciding whether pesticide applications are subject to the 25- or 100-foot AEZ.

Nebraska Farm Bureau will provide comments to the EPA on the proposal.

Livestock Risk Management and Education Act introduced in House

Also this week, U.S. Representatives Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.), Liz Cheney (R-WY), and Frank Lucas (R-OK), introduced the Livestock Risk Management and Education Act, a bill that would target grants to state land-grant universities to help develop and deliver programs on risk management options available to the livestock industry. More specifically, the legislation would authorize the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to provide resources focused on futures markets and risk management tools for beef, pork, and other livestock producers. This new authority would allow land-grant universities to partner with grower associations to more directly reach producers.

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