Property tax relief is still in play at the State Capitol as lawmakers work to piece together a path forward with few days remaining in the legislative session. The schedule got tighter this week when the Speaker of the Legislature announced the body will adjourn for the year Friday, May 31, a week earlier than previously planned. The Revenue Committee’s major tax and education funding reform bill is still available but has yet to garner the 33 votes need for debate to resume on the bill. A separate measure to put more money into the state’s Property Tax Credit Fund that surfaced this week, is also in the mix.

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Nebraska Farm Bureau registered opposition this week to LB 720, a bill that would provide millions of dollars in corporate incentives, noting that the Legislature should be focused on providing property tax relief first for hardworking Nebraska families. Lawmakers debated LB 720 for three hours this week. The bill’s introducer, Sen. Mark Kolterman of Seward, will need to show 33 votes in favor of the measure for legislative debate to resume.

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Japan has eliminated its long-held restrictions on American beef imports, opening full access to U.S. cattle products after more than 15 years. According to USDA, the expanded access could increase U.S. beef and beef product exports to Japan by up to $200 million annually.

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The American Farm Bureau is urging President Trump to bring a swift resolution to the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China. In a letter, AFBF President Zippy Duval pointed to the six-year downturn in farm prices that has produced “near-unprecedented economic uncertainty and hardship” is worsening as a result of Chinese tariffs.”

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A new report by the Nebraska Farm Bureau details the strong connection between the threat of U.S. imposed tariffs on trade partners and the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in Nebraska agriculture exports in 2017. The “Nebraska Agriculture and International Trade” report uses the most current United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) trade data to identify the 2017 value of Nebraska agriculture exports on a per-commodity, per-county, and per-farm and ranch basis. In doing so, the report details the strong sensitivity of agriculture markets and Nebraska exports to negative trade and tariff talk.

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Trade Report Here

A bill giving Nebraska farmers and ranchers greater assurances that their investments made to grow and expand their farm and ranches are not subject to the whims of frivolous nuisance lawsuits is now law, after being signed by Gov. Pete Ricketts earlier this week. The bill is a big win for agriculture in a climate where these types of suits are gaining steam around the country. The enactment of LB 227 was one of Nebraska Farm Bureau’s priorities for the session.

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Nebraska Farm Bureau and several other agriculture groups announced their support for LB 289, this week, a major tax and education funding reform bill brought by the Legislature’s Revenue Committee. First round floor debate began May 7. In order for debate to continue, Revenue Committee Chair Sen. Lou Ann Linehan will need to show 33 votes in support of the measure. While small and medium sized schools support the bill, Omaha, Lincoln, Millard, and other large schools in the state are opposed. Sen. Linehan and Education Committee Chair, Sen. Mike Groene are working with those interests to find a compromise to help move the measure forward. Contact your state senator to offer support for LB 289 and help deliver tax relief!

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State lawmakers could take up a bill to update Nebraska’s business tax incentives as early as next week. LB 720 was introduced by Sen. Mark Kolterman of Seward. Nebraska Farm Bureau testified in a neutral capacity on the bill at the bill’s public hearing, emphasizing that the Legislature must address property tax relief first, before spending legislative time and state resources to provide business tax incentives. Given the Legislature has yet to provide certainty on property tax relief this session, Farm Bureau members should be on the lookout for an Action Alert on the bill sometime next week.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue confirmed this week that the White House has asked United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to put together a second aid package for farmers to make up for losses from Chinese imposed retaliatory tariffs. In an early morning tweet May 10, Perdue, who is in Japan for ag discussions, noted the President asked him to work on a plan quickly.

Join young farmers and ranchers at the Young Farmers and Ranchers (YF&R) Summer Social in Chadron, NE and discover Western Nebraska. Attendees will hear a keynote speaker, breakout sessions, and tour agriculture unique to Western Nebraska. The day will end with a chuck wagon steak cookout at Fort Robinson. Attendees are encouraged to bring the family and explore Fort Robinson on Saturday.

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Act Now for Property Tax Relief!

Securing property tax relief for Nebraskans is a major priority for the Nebraska Farm Bureau and right now we have a REAL OPPORTUNITY to work with the Legislature to help deliver it. That’s why the Nebraska Farm Bureau Board of Directors have taken a position to support LB 289, the tax and education funding reform bill that advanced from the Legislature’s Revenue Committee. The bill is slated for first round legislative debate, Tuesday, May 7.

More than $2 million has been collected for the Nebraska Farm Bureau Disaster Relief Fund, with 100 percent of funds raised going to farmers, ranchers and rural communities in need of assistance. The kindness and generosity of people across Nebraska and the United States is humbling and the dollars are being put to great use in getting Nebraskans back on their feet. 

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Nebraska farmers and ranchers will have greater assurances that investments made to grow and expand their farm and ranch operations are not subject to the whims of frivolous nuisance lawsuits due to the Legislature’s passage of LB 227, May 2. LB 227 is one of Nebraska Farm Bureau’s priority bills for the 2019 legislative session.

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Nebraska Farm Bureau applauded U.S. Senator Ben Sasse’s this week for the reintroduction of the Transporting Livestock Across America Safely Act to address overly strict regulations that are hurting farmers, ranchers and livestock haulers. In a statement Farm Bureau President Steven Nelson pointed to the importance of a common-sense solution to give Nebraskans the flexibility they need to keep livestock safe and to keep agriculture moving forward.

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Farmers and ranchers dealing with livestock losses from the “Bomb Cyclone” and raging flood waters this spring can still seek assistance through the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) - for financial assistance to properly dispose of dead livestock. Applications are being accepted now through July 1. This is an extension of the original sign up periods announced immediately following the flooding/blizzard.

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With spring work and planting underway farmers and ranchers shouldn’t forget to move farm safety to the forefront. Every year, thousands of farmers and ranchers are injured and hundreds more die in farming accidents. You matter to us! That’s why Nebraska Farm Bureau reminds you to take precautions to make your operation as safe as possible.

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Nebraska farm and ranch families were already operating in a difficult economic environment before flooding and blizzards ravaged many parts of our state. The uncertainty producers face in crop and livestock operations can seem overwhelming. Nebraska Extension Educators Glennis McClure and Brandy VanDeWalle provided strategies for dealing with the stress of operating in today’s difficult climate with their “Wellness in Tough Times” webinar which aired earlier this week.

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The Legislature’s Revenue, Education, and Retirement Committee hosted a hearing Wednesday on an amendment to LB 289, a property tax relief bill under consideration by the Legislature’s Revenue Committee. In neutral testimony, Nebraska Farm Bureau and other members of the Agriculture Leaders Working Group urged the Committee to continue to provide property tax relief through the state’s property tax credit fund and look for other ways to fund the Committee’s plan to deliver more than $600 million in property tax relief.

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State lawmakers gave second round approval to LB 227 this week. The bill was introduced by Sen. Dan Hughes of Venango, at the request of Nebraska Farm Bureau and other agriculture groups to boost protections for farms and ranches against nuisance suits. The amended version of the bill senators will consider for final passage will continue agriculture’s “first in time” protections that prevent an individual or entity from moving next to an agriculture operation and filing a nuisance suit based on the operation’s normal farming practices. The amended version further establishes a statute of limitation whereby a change in farming practices could only be considered a nuisance if the individual or entity files a nuisance lawsuit within a two-year window of claiming a nuisance situation exists. Passage of LB 227 in one of Nebraska Farm Bureau’s top priorities for the 2019 legislative session.

LB 227 Info

With the 90-day legislative two-thirds of the way completed, here’s a rundown of where things stand on a handful of key bills of interest to agriculture.

Nebraska Farm Bureau is urging USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to alleviate some of the bureaucratic red tape farm and ranch families are being asked to deal with in order to qualify for disaster assistance programs of importance farmers and ranchers impacted by the flooding and blizzards that hammered the state this winter and into early spring. In an April 25 letter Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson asked Secretary Perdue to review provisions of both the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) and Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP).