2018 NeFU Special Orders of Business

2017-2018 Nebraska Farmers Union State Convention
Five Special Orders of Business

#1: Special Order of Business on the Farm Bill and Prolonged Farm Crisis
Whereas, grain commodity prices are far below the cost of production for the fourth year in a row, and many farmers, especially beginning farmers, are facing severe financial stress including the prospect of not being able to have their operating loans renewed; and
Whereas, the collapse of domestic farm prices is the direct result of a grain trade controlled domestic farm policy that has destroyed farmers’ collective ability through federal legislation to bring domestic ag production for basic commodities into alignment with utilization, isolate the blessing of surplus production from the market in a Farmer Owned Reserves system, and provide price supports at or above the cost of production. The loss of these basic business practices has allowed the grain trade to reap the benefits of buying the entire U.S. grain and oilseeds crop at far below the cost of production; and
Whereas, because of the failures of the current Farm Bill and its underlying policy causing the prolonged collapse of domestic farm prices, a crisis exists in production agriculture, and the current Farm Bill’s income safety net is woefully inadequate to meet the farm income needs of U.S. farmers with commodity prices at price levels comparable to the early 1970’s; and
Whereas, Nebraska Farmers Union policy supports a Farm Bill that has strong and effective income safety net provisions that allow farmers to survive the economic booms and busts caused by wild swings in ag commodity prices; and
Therefore, Be it Resolved that Nebraska Farmers Union strongly urges Congress to address the growing farm crisis by providing the necessary additional funding needed to allow farmers to have positive cash flows, feed their families, get the next generation started, and get their farm operating loans renewed; and
Therefore, Be it Further Resolved that Nebraska Farmers Union strongly urges Congress to re-think farm policy as it considers a new Farm Bill in order to provide the new Farm Bill with the program tools it needs to bring production into alignment with domestic utilization, export needs, and a Farmers Owned domestic strategic reserve that would help even out the booms and busts of both agricultural production and domestic prices; and
Therefore, Be it Further Resolved that Nebraska Farmers Union strongly urges farmers and ranchers to get actively involved in the development of a new farmer and rancher friendly Farm Bill that includes a more robust income safety net, more effective market reforms, affordable crop insurance, beginning farmer supports, strong conservation provisions and programs to help agriculture deal with changing climate and weather patterns, value added support, rural development programs including support for farmer and rancher owned renewable energy, and expanded short and long term credit; and
Therefore, Be it Further Resolved that Nebraska Farmers Union strongly urges the Nebraska Governor and Legislature to recognize the severity of the current farm crisis and make quick and sweeping changes in state tax policy to reduce the severe additional economic stress and hardship that Nebraska’s overreliance on property taxes is placing on farmers, ranchers, and landowners by developing a more fair and balanced state tax system.

#2: Special Order of Business on Property Tax Relief
Whereas, production agriculture is a capital and property intensive, high risk, low margin business with wild swings in net income that is for the most part incapable of setting the price of the commodities they produce or passing their incurred costs of production on; and
Whereas, for the fourth year in a row, grain prices are below the costs of production for many farmers, creating the worst financial squeeze since the farm crisis of the mid 1980’s causing farmers and ranchers to lose equity, struggle to cash flow and get their farm operating loans renewed; and
Whereas, the current Farm Bill’s income safety net does not adequately support family farmers when commodity prices are far below the cost of production as they have been for the past four years in a row, an economic crisis exists in the farm sector; and
Whereas, the Legislature has not fully funded the state aid to education formula known as the TEEOSA (Nebraska Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act) based on what the formula itself called for in funding without adjusting the formula downward, resulting in a corresponding shift from state income and sales taxes to local property taxes; and
Whereas, currently 178 out of 244 of Nebraska’s school districts or 72% do not currently receive state aid equalization aid from the state for 95% of their school operating budgets, and are forced to rely on property taxes to fund their mostly rural and mostly smaller schools; and
Whereas, only 7% of the total TEEOSA support goes to Class B schools of below 2,000 students including Class C, and Class D schools, clearly indicating a funding inequity; and
Whereas, Nebraska is 49th in the nation in the percentage (32.5%) of income and sales taxes used for total educational funding; and
Whereas, the national average for the use of property taxes to fund education is 29.2%, and Nebraska’s percentage of property taxes used to fund K-12 schools is 49.4%, making our state 1st in agricultural property tax and 7th in residential property tax in the nation; and
Whereas, the University of Nebraska’s Market Watch study shows the average Nebraska farm ($22,934.00) paying over 60% more property taxes than the second highest state of California ($13,299.00); and
Whereas, of the three primary sources of state tax revenue which includes income, sales, and property taxes, property taxes are by far the most regressive form of taxation because it least reflects the ability of the taxpayer to pay based on their net earned income; and
Whereas, Nebraska Farmers Union policy supports a balanced state tax policy with equal parts of revenue coming from income, sales, and property taxes; and
Whereas, Nebraska Farmers Union policy supports more use of income taxes as the tax that is the most fair and that best reflects the ability of taxpayers to pay, and also supports using more income taxes to fund K-12 education and less reliance on property taxes; and
Therefore Be It Resolved that Nebraska Farmers Union strongly urges the Nebraska Legislature and our Governor to support a state tax policy that provides long term, sustainable property tax relief for all property owners in Nebraska and adequately funds the costs of K-12 education; and
Therefore Be It Further Resolved that Nebraska Farmers Union strongly urges Nebraska land and property owners to get and stay engaged in all aspects of the legislative process to help take advantage of the opportunity for meaningful property tax relief.

#3: Special Orders of Business Supporting the Use of a Private Public Partnership
to Achieve High Quality High Speed Internet Access Statewide
Whereas, data from the 2016 Nebraska Rural Poll “Broadband and Mobile Internet Services in Nonmetropolitan Nebraska” with 1,746 respondents found rural Nebraskans very “dissatisfied” and “somewhat dissatisfied” percentages for (overall home internet services were 26%), (customer services were 25%) , (speed” were 34%), (reliability were 33%), and (price were 52%); and
Whereas, private sector companies have had nearly two decades to deliver on their promises to invest and provide good quality, affordable, rural broadband high speed internet access; and
Whereas, the UNL Rural Poll data shows that private sector companies have left about one in four rural Nebraskans with inadequate home internet reception and quality; and
Whereas, school assignments and lessons are done on the internet; and
Whereas, rural communication, commercial business, and farm program business is increasingly being done on the internet; and
Whereas, young people are less likely to move to farms, ranches, and rural areas that do not have high quality internet capacities and service; and
Whereas, the need for more increased internet capacity grows continues to grow as new software programs continue to be developed and utilized on farms and ranches across the state for everyday uses such as the management of irrigation systems, buying and selling ag products, operation and repair of farm equipment, and rural healthcare among others; and
Whereas, many of Nebraska’s public power utilities currently have dark cable already laid that is underutilized but available to provide service to rural users in underserved areas of our state; and
Therefore be it resolved that Nebraska Farmers Union supports legislation to allow Nebraska public power districts (PPD) to partner with private entities to build, upgrade, enhance, and support the infrastructure necessary to ensure meaningful high speed internet access is provided for a reasonable cost in rural areas throughout the Nebraska, by conveying or committing PPD assets, technical expertise, and public financing to serve underserved areas of our state in partnership with private sector companies who have yet to invest in the necessary capacity and infrastructure to serve rural users.
Therefore be it further resolved that it is not in the best interests of the state to fail to use publicly owned PPD resources that are currently available that are underutilized or unused in those parts of the state where there is still a clear growing need for high quality rural broadband high speed internet services. Rural Nebraska must not be left behind.

#4: Special Order of Business on Net Metering
Whereas, Nebraska Farmers Union worked for over a dozen years to get net metering
guidelines established with the passage of LB436 by the Nebraska Legislature in 2009; and
Whereas, it was widely understood with the passage of LB436 that it would be necessary to monitor and evaluate its implementation and utilization for potential adjustments; and
Whereas, the number of net metering installations since the passage of LB436 is extremely low. Based on the Nebraska Power Review Board Net Metering report, there have been only 396 systems installed in the entire state since 2010 as of December 1, 2017, with 189 or nearly half of the state totals within the OPPD (80), LES (56), and NPPD (53) systems. The majority of the rural power districts have zero installations despite the high level of interest in both wind and solar energy in rural Nebraska including farm, ranch, and rural businesses; and
Whereas, there is tremendous interest in solar energy development by Nebraska farmers and rural businesses; and
Whereas, many mid to large sized businesses, farms and ranchers have power needs in excess of the current 25 kw maximum guaranteed access level for net-metering; and
Whereas, Nebraska’s publicly owned power system should be at least as user friendly to the owners of their system as private sector utilities are with their customers when it comes to allowing and encouraging more small wind, solar, biomass, hydropower, or geothermal renewable energy installations ; and
Whereas, it is in the interests of all Nebraskans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase the use of renewable energy sources including small wind, solar, biomass, hydropower, or geothermal; and
Whereas, many farmers have multiple meters on their farms as they serve their farm’s irrigation, grain drying, livestock barns, farm house, and shops electrical needs; and
Therefore be it resolved the members of the Nebraska Farmers Union support an increase of the maximum guaranteed access level for net-metering to 100 kw ensuring a one to one offset of energy used for a full 100 kw’s; and
Therefore be it further resolved the members of the Nebraska Farmers Union supports changing and updating current state law to allow single owners the option of aggregating their multiple meters for the purpose of net metering.

#5: Special Order of Business on Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS)
Whereas, Nebraska is ranked #2 in the nation in ethanol production; and
Whereas, Nebraska has 25 value added ethanol plants that have brought over $5 billion of capital investment and additional tax base to rural Nebraska that provides $15 million of corresponding tax relief to rural Nebraska; and
Whereas, Nebraska has 25 value added ethanol plants that provide over $5 billion of additional annual economic development activity to rural Nebraska; and
Whereas, Nebraska’s 25 ethanol plants provide over 1,300 direct jobs producing $71 million of annual direct earned income and is the basis for 3,000 additional indirect jobs producing $319 million of annual earned income that support the rural communities they are located in; and
Whereas, Nebraska’s ethanol industry produces 2 billion gallons of ethanol and utilizes 750 million bushels of corn, which is over 44% of our state’s corn production; and
Whereas, Nebraska’s ethanol industry produces $52 million of high-quality feed in distiller grains and corn gluten feed, used for Nebraska’s top ranked cattle sector and provides them with a competitive advantage over states without ethanol sectors; and
Whereas, our nation’s ethanol industry has raised the value of corn between 50 cents to $1 per bushel, ethanol has increased the value of Nebraska’s annual corn crop from $.8 billion to $1.6 billion of additional value to the Nebraska corn producers and the rural economy; and
Whereas, Nebraska’s ethanol industry has lowered the price of retail gasoline in our state saving Nebraska fuel buyers $158 million in annual fuel costs: and
Whereas, our nation’s ethanol industry has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 43% when compared to gasoline by a recent Argonne National Laboratory study; and
Whereas, the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) has been the key cost effective driver of national ethanol demand and utilization by virtue of its clear ethanol production and utilization standards; and
Whereas, the RFS continues to drive the development and deployment of second-generation bio-fuels which will create additional value added markets for farmers; and
Whereas, implementation of a national Strategic Grain Reserve and a national strategic Renewable Fuels Reserve should be used as a cost effective way to protect the interests of livestock and renewable fuels, and Congress should consider both reserves to manage the inherent volatility in grain production while also accomplishing our nation’s renewable energy goals; and
Therefore Be It Resolved that Nebraska Farmers Union supports raising the original RFS production targets currently in place, and calls on the EPA to raise the original RFS production targets.

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