In his annual address at the Nebraska Farm Bureau Annual Meeting and Convention, Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson told more than 350 farmers and ranchers from across the state that progress is being made in efforts to address the state’s overreliance on property taxes, a situation that has led to Nebraska being one of the highest property tax states in the nation.
In his remarks, Nelson also highlighted the importance of the United States resolving trade disputes that have limited market access for Nebraska agriculture commodities into international markets, which are critical to the future of agriculture. “Making significant change to state tax policy is like turning an aircraft carrier. It takes time. It’s large, It’s cumbersome. It doesn’t turn on a dime. But we are turning the corner on property taxes. This issue is no longer headed in the wrong direction. It’s headed in the right direction,” said Nelson, Dec. 3.
Nelson told attendees that more and more state senators have heard from their constituents and understand the need and importance of fixing the property tax issue.
“There was a time, not too long ago, when I would testify at the Capitol or talk to senators about the problem of property taxes being used to fund the responsibilities of the state. It was obvious they didn’t understand the issue and showed little interest doing something about it. If you walk into the Capitol today, you would be hard pressed to find many senators who would say property taxes aren’t a major issue for their constituents,” said Nelson. “Much of that change has to do with the collective efforts of our members and organization to make those concerns known.”
According to Nelson, partnerships with other interests will be needed to secure the votes necessary to advance a property tax relief measure in the Legislature in the upcoming legislative session.
“We are working closely with the other agriculture groups in the state. We are working closely with our rural and urban senators. We are working closely with all those who can help us lower our state’s property tax burden. Nebraska Farm Bureau remains laser focused on resolving this issue,” said Nelson.
Nelson also pointed to Nebraska Farm Bureau’s work to promote trade at the national and international level as being key to the future for Nebraska agriculture.
“We must continue to push for greater market access and market opportunities for the crops and livestock we produce here in Nebraska. Nearly 96 percent of the world’s population resides outside the U.S. These are people whose incomes are rising and their desire and appetite for American and Nebraska produced farm goods is growing,” said Nelson. “For Nebraska agriculture to be successful we must develop new markets, lower trade barriers, encourage beneficial trade agreements, and capitalize new opportunities by building trust and being engaged in the markets that matter.”
Nelson noted that few things create more uncertainty and downward price pressure in agriculture, than trade disruptions.
“The retaliatory tariffs against the U.S. imposed steel and aluminum tariffs have made it difficult for many in agriculture over the past year. While there are certainly positives in the new deal recently signed between the United States, Mexico, and Canada, and the deal to protect our interests in South Korea, it’s critical we continue to push forward with more trade agreements with our key partners, including the European Union and Japan; a nation whose appetite for Nebraska beef and Nebraska agriculture products only continues to grow,” said Nelson.
Nelson also pointed out that negotiation, not tariffs, provide the best path toward solving trade issues.
“There are plenty of competitors in the global market looking to displace American agriculture. Lost markets are difficult to recover. It can take years to do so; if it can be done at all,” said Nelson.
Nelson specifically spoke to the need to address trade issues with China, a country that has been the largest customer for U.S. soybeans and the third largest trading partner for Nebraska agriculture commodities and goods, in addition to the need for the U.S. to engage in improved trade relations with countries engaged in the new Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
“Clearly, issues with China must be addressed. Getting trade deals done with the European Union, Japan, and others, is the best way to apply more pressure to China and give us more leverage in negotiations,” said Nelson. “Furthermore, President Trump’s promise in pulling the U.S. out of Trans-Pacific Partnership was that we would get bilateral deals done with those potential customers. That must happen to ensure there is a bright future and opportunity for Nebraska farm and ranch families.”