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POLICY WATCH

State Legislative Election Analysis

In true election form, there remain questions as to how the makeup of the 2023 Unicameral will look. Several races are still within the margin where recounting votes may be required. At the time of writing this, the following is what we know.

Nebraska Farm Bureau and the state had a successful election cycle. Now the question of how it will function looms large. With 14 senators with no legislative experience, their learning curve will be steep in a legislative body where institutional knowledge is needed for long-term success.

We have a saying at Farm Bureau that the key is 33. Thirty-three votes are needed to overcome a filibuster. Although the Legislature is nonpartisan, oftentimes party lines are what separate issues. Many bills during the last session failed to move on to the next round of voting by a one vote margin associated with party lines. The Republican majority will now be at 33 barring any changes in two close races.

While this by no means guarantees success in any venture as getting 33 legislators to agree on much is never easy, it does provide opportunities that were not afforded to previous legislatures and first-time governors.

Those opportunities include social issues like abortion and constitutional carry, but also open the door for education funding reform, common sense regulatory changes, tax relief, and rural economic development.

Understanding the numerical breakdown of the legislature is key. The following numbers can help paint a picture. Keep in mind that the seat currently held by Speaker Hilgers will be vacated when he becomes attorney general, thereby giving the governor the opportunity to appoint a successor.

  • New: 16
  • Republicans: 33
  • Democrats: 16
  • Nebraska Farm Bureau endorsed: 29
  • Rural: 17
  • Suburban: 7
  • Urban: 25
  • Senators with two or less years of experience: 20
  • Senators with four years of experience: 12
  • Senators with six or more years of experience: 17
  • Senators termed out in 2024: 15

The next step for the Farm Bureau Public Policy Team is to educate the incoming senators on Nebraska Farm Bureau’s issues and priorities, the legislative process, and how we can help them. This is especially valuable as incoming senators will be drinking from a firehose during their first year. Thankfully, our extensive candidate interview and endorsement process has given us a leg up in getting to know all of the newly elected senators. Our team feels as if we know many of them quite well already, and those relationships will only continue to grow.

There are a lot of plates spinning at once, but even so, the Nebraska Farm Bureau Public Policy Team is encouraged by what this session could look like. It will be extremely busy, but we anticipate a good year for agriculture at the Nebraska state capitol.

Tuesday’s Election Results Lead to Many Farm Policy Questions

By Jordan Dux, Sr. Director of National Affairs

Unless you’re one of the lucky ones who instituted a complete media ban over the past few months, weeks, and days, you probably saw we had an election on Tuesday. Again, unless you were one of those aforementioned folks, you also have likely seen plenty of national analysis from talking heads going over who won and who lost. Rather than simply regurgitating what many of you already heard and now know, I’d like to take a quick second to provide a bit of analysis on what the outcome of Tuesday’s election means for agricultural policy at the federal level. While the cynic in me would love to tell you all that you would be happier if you just didn’t pay attention to any of this and just focused on the happenings on your individual farm/ranch. However, as you all know, we simply can’t do that anymore…more on that in a second.

From a federal ag policy perspective, one of the largest impacts we will see is on the composition and leadership of both the Senate and House Ag Committees. Those changes will in turn have an impact on the legislation that comes out of those respective bodies, including the 2023 Farm Bill. As of the writing of this piece, we are anticipating Republicans having a small majority in the House of Representatives with control of the Senate still in the air. If Republicans only take control of one side of The Hill, it is likely the farm bills that advance out of the House and Senate will look strikingly different. While we will likely see a largely evolutionary vs. revolutionary take on Title I commodity programs, Title II Conservation Programs and Title IV Nutrition Programs may be targets for larger reforms by members of both political parties. Will we see Democrats push for additional climate focused requirements or incentives added to conservation programs? Will Republicans in the House look to make reforms to a potential $1 trillion plus Nutrition Title? Outside of the Farm Bill and even the Ag Committees, some unpopular regulations which have been pushed by the Biden administration are also likely to become targets, see the Biden SEC rule forcing companies to report Tier 3 supply chain emissions. While we await the final vote totals to come in, know that Farm Bureau is prepared to push our member passed policy regardless of who’s in charge.

Now, as I mentioned earlier, it would be very easy to simply focus on your “real job;” growing the food, fiber, and fuel and feed our nation and the rest of the world. Unfortunately, now more than ever before, we need you. We need each and every one of you to help us in defending agriculture from those who simply don’t understand what you do. Let’s be honest, for the most part, it isn’t their fault. We are centuries past the time when the average U.S. citizen worried about where their next meal was coming from or how they would obtain many of the life basics farmers and ranchers help provide. Yet, as it’s been said time and again, ignorance doesn’t prevent someone from having an opinion. As a guy whose job is to follow the happenings of Washington, D.C., I get a front row seat to that each and every day. But we can’t simply pack it in. We cannot allow those with an agenda to take away crop protection products, we cannot allow federal regulatory agencies to push new regulations without regard to the additional time and treasure it will take for farmers and ranchers to comply with them. We cannot sit back and allow the nation’s rail system to go on strike, crippling our nation’s economy. We need you. We need your letters to members of Congress. (See the story in Newswire on the rail strike to see what you can do to help!) We need you to pick up the phone and talk to the decision makers you know and help share the stories and perspectives that need to be shared. I end almost all of these pieces with a promise that Farm Bureau will be there to help push what needs to be pushed, but we can’t do it alone. As we approach the beginning of the next year, please stay posted on the many opportunities we will have that will help you make an impact. You’re not going to have time for all of them, but I hope you will take the time to help where you can help ensure a better future for Nebraska’s farm and ranch families. 

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