2019-2020

Nebraska Farmers Union Policy
Adopted at the 106th Annual Nebraska Farmers Union State Convention
December 6-7, 2019
Divots Conference Center | Norfolk, Nebraska

Download the 2019-2020 NeFU Policy Book Here

2019-20 Nebraska Farmers Union Convention

Special Order of Business on Broadband Expansion

Whereas, 89 percent of all Nebraskans but only 63 percent of Rural Nebraskans have fixed broadband of at least 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload speeds which makes Nebraska 40th lowest in the nation for broadband connectivity; and

Whereas, the State of Nebraska uses Form 477 data released by the FCC which is derived from census block data resulting in a massive over estimation of broadband connectivity which results in inappropriate and inadequate public policymaking; and

Whereas, census block measurements are statistical areas that can be as small as 1/1000 of a square mile or as large as up to 200 square miles; and

Whereas, about 50 percent of Nebraska connectivity data comes from data that comes from census blocks that are greater than 2 square miles geographically; and

Whereas, all Nebraskans need a reliable and affordable broadband connection for running their business in an increasingly global economy and be on a level playing field with businesses from other states who are far ahead of Nebraska in providing reliable and affordable high speed broadband connections;

Therefore be it resolved Nebraska Farmers Union strongly urges the state of Nebraska to leverage the FCC’s Digital Opportunity Data Collection program or an alternate broadband mapping program created through federal legislation to improve Nebraska’s broadband coverage map and encourage the Nebraska Information Technology Commission, Nebraska Public Service Commission and other stakeholders to explore strategies that encourages Nebraskans to participate in crowdsourcing efforts developed to enhance federal broadband mapping; and

Therefore be it further resolved Nebraska Farmers Union supports legislation to allow willing Nebraska public power districts (PPD) to participate in public private partnerships to utilize their underused or unused infrastructure to serve underserved areas of our state in partnership in order to ensure meaningful and affordable high speed internet access is provided throughout the entire state of Nebraska.

 

2019-20 Nebraska Farmers Union Convention

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 pass along their incurred costs of production; and

Whereas, for the seventh year in a row, grain prices are at or 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’ financial viability to erode as they continue to lose both equity and cash to the point where their farm operating loans are not being 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 seven years in a row, an economic crisis exists in the farm sector of Nebraska; 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 163 out of 244 of Nebraska’s school districts or 66% 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, less than 10% 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 lowest in the nation in the percentage (32.8%) of income and sales taxes used for total educational funding compared to 45.3% nationally; and

Whereas, the national average for the use of property taxes to fund education is 34.4%, and Nebraska’s percentage of property taxes used to fund K-12 schools is 49.5%, putting Nebraska agriculture at a huge competitive disadvantage; 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

Whereas, Governor Ricketts continues to support income tax reductions that undermines legislative efforts to provide real property tax relief and more fairly fund K-12 education and also oppose any proposed structural fixes to the long standing structural problem of Nebraska’s over use of property taxes to fund K-12 education;

Therefore Be It Resolved Nebraska Farmers Union strongly urges rural and urban State Senators to work together and move forward with real and immediate structural reforms that uses more income and sales taxes and reduces property taxes: before considering approval of tax credits on income exemptions for profitable companies; 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.

2019-20 Nebraska Farmers Union Convention

Special Order of Business on Nebraska Tax Incentive Programs

Whereas a Nebraska Department of Revenue analysis of the state’s largest business tax incentive program, the Nebraska Advantage Act, found that lost tax revenues have exceeded gains from the additional economic activity and will continue to do so through 2025; and

Whereas the Nebraska Advantage Act is largely a blank check provided to select businesses based solely on limited financial commitments to the state but excludes an evaluation of potential costs which might attribute to the local community in which the investment is located, or neighboring communities; and

Whereas the net cost of the Nebraska Advantage Act to the state of Nebraska was $50.7 million in 2017, and the annual cost is expected to grow to an estimated $81.8 million by 2025 and the cumulative cost of the Advantage Act is projected to be just under $500 million by 2020; and

Whereas Nebraska’s unemployment rate is at 3.1%, which ranks as the 15th lowest in the nation, despite leading the nation in two-earner families, creating a workforce shortage; and

Whereas the vast majority of business tax incentives go to only two out of Nebraska’s ninety-three counties, Douglas and Lancaster respectively; and

Whereas massive business incentives reduce state revenues and will result in shifting costs to local taxing districts that must raise replacement funds through property taxes; and

Whereas current data on wage rates in Omaha demonstrate that tax incentives have not resulted in increased salaries and wages which would benefit the citizens of that city; and

Whereas other factors besides tax incentives are the leading reasons why corporations locate in specific communities, such as education, work ethic, weather, transportation opportunities, and the like; and

Whereas several large corporate entities that have benefited from tax incentives have left the state regardless of what has been previously provided;

Therefore, Be it Resolved  that Nebraska Farmers Union opposes the use of tax incentives because they impact state revenues, have not demonstrated that they can return more revenue to the state than they absorb, are available largely to well-financed enterprises, and are applied unevenly across the state; and

Therefore, Be it Further Resolved that Nebraska Farmers Union strongly urges the Nebraska Legislature to cap the new economic incentive package known as the Nebraska ImagiNE Act (LB 720) at $100 million dollars annually with necessary flexibility; and

Therefore, Be it Further Resolved that Nebraska Farmers Union strongly urges the Nebraska Legislature to amend the current form of the Nebraska ImagiNE Act to allow for the buy-back of companies who have outstanding Nebraska Advantage Act credits; and

Therefore, Be it Further Resolved that Nebraska Farmers Union strongly urges the Nebraska Legislature to amend the current form of the Nebraska ImagiNE Act to consider past record of violations of law such as antitrust, environmental and worker safety infractions when awarding any tax incentives to corporations.

2019-20 Nebraska Farmers Union Convention

Special Order of Business on Hemp Production

Whereas, the 2018 Farm Bill provision known as the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 removed industrial hemp containing less than 0.3% THC from the schedule I controlled substances list transforming hemp into an ordinary agricultural commodity; and

Whereas, Nebraska was a leader in hemp processing and production until 1927 when all hemp production was prohibited by the state; and

Whereas, for the seventh year in a row, grain prices are at or below the cost of production, creating a the worst financial crisis since the farm crisis of the mid 1980’s; and

Whereas, Nebraska’s soil and annual rainfall is well suited to support the growing of hemp, which could provide farmers with a new and profitable cash crop that would help them diversify their farm operations; and

Whereas, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture refused to let the new hemp market operate in a market based way by limiting hemp licensure to only ten producers and processors out of 162 applicants claiming a lack of funding despite assurances from the Nebraska Legislature Appropriations Committee to provide the department the necessary funding to fully operate the Nebraska Hemp Act; and

Whereas, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture returned over three hundred thousand dollars in discretionary funds to the state general fund which is the same amount the department requested to run the hemp program;

Therefore, Be it Resolved that Nebraska Farmers Union strongly urges the Nebraska Department of Agriculture to fully support and implement the Nebraska Hemp Act as intended, allowing Nebraska’s farmers the option to diversify their operations in a time of financial strain for the 2020 production year; and

Therefore, Be it Further Resolved that Nebraska Farmers Union supports revisions in the Nebraska Hemp Farming Act which will ensure widespread and timely availability of licenses without unnecessary costs, restrictions, or risks to grower, processor, handler, or marketer; and

Therefore, Be it Further Resolved that Nebraska Farmers Union strongly urges Governor Ricketts to direct his department of agriculture to allow the new hemp market to operate as Congress intended; and

Therefore, Be it Further Resolved  Nebraska Farmers Union strongly urges the Nebraska Legislature to remove the Nebraska Department of Agriculture’s ability to arbitrarily place a lid on licensees that meet the criteria set forth by the Nebraska Hemp Act.

2019-20 Nebraska Farmers Union State Convention

Special Order of Business on Net Metering

Whereas, Nebraska Farmers Union worked for over a dozen years to get net metering

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 541 systems installed since 2010 as of December 1, 2018, with 252 or 46% of the state totals within the OPPD (99), LES (86), and NPPD (67) systems.  The majority of the rural power districts have very few 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, there is a growing need to update and modernize LB436 passed in 2009; and

Whereas, many mid to large sized businesses, farms and ranchers have electrical 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 in other states 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;

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; and

Therefore be it further resolved the members of the Nebraska Farmers Union supports increasing the 1 percent to 10 percent of the per district cap of the capacity necessary to meet the local distribution utility’s average aggregate customer monthly peak demand forecast for that calendar year.