NEFB Newspaper

President’s Column – October/November 2023

September and October are big months for transitions, the kids are fully back in school, holidays are around the corner and things on the farm and ranch are getting a lot busier with harvest season and moving herds closer to home pastures before the first snow.

For Nebraska Farm Bureau it is policy development time. It’s a time to celebrate our members and membership growth in the organization. This year we have a lot to celebrate (see story on page 5). Fifty-six quota counties and six of the seven regions have made quota. This is a big achievement. We couldn’t do it without you, FBFS agents and our staff.

The landscape of agriculture is always changing but what doesn’t change is our ability to make a difference on our farms, ranches and in our rural communities by stepping up and speaking up. The more members we have, the more voices there are to share what issues affect your operations.

The list of challenges affecting agriculture grows every day. One of the biggest is the overreach of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Earlier this year, the EPA released a proposed strategy for herbicide use, aimed at guarding federally endangered species against potential negative impacts of herbicide applications. What the EPA is proposing to do eventually will impact every pesticide application in the state of Nebraska. It’s going to take away the tools we need to farm in this modern-day world of agriculture. (See story on page 9.)

As individuals we could never tackle this issue alone this is why Farm Bureau exists. Together we can push back on these types of things. In my travels on trade missions to Europe, we heard that European producers don’t have a voice on these issues. Let’s not take our freedoms for granted.

Fall also brings our property tax statements. I am proud to serve on Gov. Jim Pillen’s Valuation Task Force. Having Nebraska Farm Bureau at the table is important as we speak directly on your behalf. My main message has been that anything we do to change how we value property must be done with the understanding that it will ultimately lower our tax burden. We can’t just find another way to value our property and call it good. If doing something lowers rangeland taxes but raises them for irrigated land, then we have only shifted the burden between producers. That is not a solution.

Most of us in agriculture are heavily invested in property. Property values going up is not necessarily a bad thing, but it must be decoupled from how we tax property. Nebraska is too dependent on the valuation side of property for our taxes. Tax levies and spending growth are the real problems. Understanding this complex issue will bring us one step closer to fixing our tax problems. To that end, Nebraska Farm Bureau is working on a video explaining how property taxes are determined and collected to better equip our members for conversations with local and state leaders.

How do I measure the work we do in the Valuation Task Force? Nebraska’s effective property tax rate is too high. It has to be comparable to our neighboring states. Plus, the burdens of property, sales and income taxes need to be balanced. The property tax burden is by far the longest leg of the three-legged stool. And both things need to be fixed now. Putting it off only makes it worse. Even with the relief that has recently come our way, our tax structure remains far from competitive and balanced.

Thanks for being a member of Nebraska Farm Bureau member. From Farm Bill to trade, from regulatory reform to property taxes, your Nebraska Farm Bureau team is working on your behalf on a wide range of issues, and we count on you to provide the policy direction because we believe you know best what works and what doesn’t on your farm or ranch. I am looking forward to seeing everyone at the Policy Forum Nov. 16 in Kearney and at our Annual Meeting and Convention Dec. 3-5 in Kearney, as well.

Stay safe and be well!

Mark McHargue, President

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