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POLICY WATCH 11-15-19

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

Property Tax Progress

As the Revenue Committee continues to meet, reports this week continue to indicate the Legislature and Governor are looking more closely at using growth in state revenue to fund property tax relief. There seems to be little consensus when it comes to fundamentally reforming the way we fund K-12 schools – which most agree is the primary reason Nebraska’s system is so out of balance compared to other states – but there has been talk of putting $100 million per year over three years into the Property Tax Credit Cash Fund or toward lowering agriculture, residential, and commercial property valuations while providing some additional aid to schools. Although NEFB continues to support more comprehensive reform and broadening the sales tax base to help pay for property tax relief, we are encouraged by reports of possible compromise.

Tyson Sees Beef Plant Reopening in 60 Days

Tyson Foods expects its Holcomb, Kan. beef-processing plant to reopen sometime within the next 60 days, CEO Noel White says, calling that a conservative estimate. The plant is one of the biggest in the beef industry, representing about 5 percent of daily U.S. cattle-slaughtering capacity, and its shutdown in August after a fire sent cattle prices sharply lower for ranchers and feedlot operators, with one major slaughterhouse offline. Following the fire and subsequent market reaction, NEFB wrote to USDA Under Secretary Greg Ibach urging him to closely monitor the situation and to punish any Packers and Stockyards Act violations to the fullest extent of the law. The USDA is still conducting their official Packers and Stockyards Division investigation.

USDA Announces Deferral of Interest for 2019 Crop Year Insurance Premiums

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA) has announced it will continue to defer accrual of interest for agricultural producers’ 2019 crop year insurance premiums to help the wide swath of farmers and ranchers affected by extreme weather in 2019. USDA will defer the accrual of interest on 2019 crop year insurance premiums to the earlier of the applicable termination date or January 31, 2020, for all policies with a premium billing date of August 15, 2019. This extension is necessary since harvest progress has been very delayed and crop insurance claims are not typically settled until harvest is complete, squeezing cash flow even further. The USDA had previously announced a deferral to November 30, 2019, providing producers with an additional two months from the traditional September 30 date. With this week’s announcement, producers will have until January 31, 2020, to pay the 2019 premium without accruing interest. For any premium that is not paid by the new deadline, interest will accrue consistent with the terms of the policy.

China Now Open to US Poultry Imports

This week, China announced it would resume imports of U.S. poultry and poultry products. China has banned U.S. poultry since January 2015. The USDA, along with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), has announced that the resumption of poultry exports to China could lead to sales of over $1 billion annually. No specific time has yet been given for China to begin purchasing U.S. poultry. The 2015 ban was put in place following an outbreak of avian influenza. The U.S. had exported over $500 million of poultry to China in 2013. Total exports of U.S. poultry and poultry products were over $4.3 billion in 2018.

USDA Announces Details for Second Round of MFP Payments

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue announced Friday, Nov. 15 the details for a second tranche of payments under the Market Facilitation Program (MFP). MFP was originally designed to assist farmers who were impacted by retaliatory trade actions taken by other countries. The payments will begin next week (the week before Thanksgiving). Producers of the previously announced covered commodities will be eligible for 25 percent of the total payment expected in addition to the 50 percent they have already received under the first round a payments earlier this year. The first tranche was comprised of the higher of either 50 percent of a producer’s calculated payment or $15 per acre, which may reduce potential payments to be made in tranche two or three. A third tranche will be evaluated as market conditions and trade opportunities dictate. If conditions warrant, the third tranche will be made in January 2020.

To view more details on the MFP, please click here.

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