Nebraska Farmers Union Lists Wins and Losses In 2021 Legislative Session
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: John Hansen 402-476-8815 Office or 402-580-8815 Cell
June 8, 2021 LINCOLN, NE – Nebraska Farmers Union (NeFU) testified on 50 bills in the 2021 legislative session, supporting 37 and opposing 13 bills. 13 bills NeFU supported became law, and 2 bills NeFU opposed became law. NeFU President John Hansen noted that was a good batting percentage. He also noted the COVID-19 safety restrictions created some new ways to voice our opinions digitally as well as some obstacles to testifying in person. Hopefully, things will return to normal next session.
In the Agriculture Committee, NeFU was pleased with the passage of Sen. Gragert’s LR5 that adopted the findings of the Heathy Soils Task Force, and Sen. Brandt’s LB324 that created a herd share system that will increase the marketing opportunities for meat producers and the use of smaller federally inspected meat lockers. NeFU was disappointed that Sen. Brewer’s LB235 that created a state meat inspection system is stuck in Committee. It would give the state the opportunity to open up new additional meat marketing and inspection opportunities. LB572 that changed provisions of the Livestock Brand Act was a mix of provisions NeFU supported and opposed.
NeFU was extremely disappointed the Legislature failed to pass Sen. Vargas’s LB241 that would have required Nebraska meat packing plants to implement common sense provisions to protect the health and safety of meat packing workers. The provisions in the bill were consistent with recommendations made by the University of Nebraska Medical Center to make Nebraska meat packing workplaces more safe.
In the Education Committee, Senator Brandt’s LB396 created the Nebraska Farm-to-School Program was heard, supported, and is now law. Hansen said “NeFU has championed this issue for many years to get more locally produced foods in Nebraska schools. Sen. Brandt, his staff, and the organizations involved in last year’s task force that laid the groundwork are to be congratulated.” NeFU is cautiously optimistic that Sen. DeBoer’s LB132 that was turned into LR 141 and is now made up of 11Senators will do a thorough study of our state aid to education funding formula and make sound recommendations.
NeFU was extremely pleased with the passage and override of Governor Rickett’s veto of Sen. Brandt’s LB306 that utilized federal monies to assist low income residents with their utility bills.
Bills in Natural Resources NeFU supported that became law included Sen. Flood’s LB650 that allows for the geologic storage of Carbon Dioxide and Sen. Bostelman’s LB507 that prohibits the use of treated seed corn as fuels stock for ethanol production. NeFU was disappointed that two common sense bills that updated Nebraska’s net metering law were not moved forward, Sen. Bostar’s LB573 and Sen. John Cavanaugh’s LB506. Also stuck in Committee Sen. John Cavanaugh’s LB483 that would have the University of Nebraska provide for a climate change study and action plan. Hansen said “The Legislature has repeatedly failed to develop a statewide climate plan. We should utilize the nationally recognized expertise of the University of Nebraska to do a study and develop an action plan. The failure to plan is to by default, plan for failure. On the issue of climate change, we cannot afford to fa
Four bills heard in the Revenue Committee NeFU supported became law. Sen. Briese’s LB 2 that reduced ag land valuations from 75% to 50% for bond issues, Sen. Williams LB254 that extended the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Act program, Sen. Albrecht’s LB595 that removed sales taxes on ethanol production inputs, and Sen. Murman’s LB672 that removed the sales tax exemptions for certain ag machinery all because law. Hansen said “All of these bills were about fairness, good public policy, and about correcting longstanding inconsistencies and errors in the Nebraska Revenue Department’s interpretation of laws already passed.” NeFU supported Sen. Friesen’s LB454 that made it out of Committee but failed on the floor. It was an attempt to provide some financial support to the two thirds of all schools that currently do not receive any funding from the state aid to education formula.
Also in Revenue Committee, NeFU did not support lowering the state corporate income tax rate contained in Sen. Linehan’s LB680 that also passed. Four bills or Constitutional amendments NeFU opposed failed to get out of Committee or failed on the floor. They included Sen. Erdman’s LB133 and LR11CA that dealt with eliminating income, sales, property, and estate taxes and establish a consumption tax, and Sen. Briese’s LB408 and Sen. Linehan’s LR22CA that both imposed additional lids on local governmental subdivisions. LB 408 died on the floor and LR22CA did not make it out of Committee. NeFU has long been critical of the risky and regressive nature of consumption taxes and additional lids that hamstring local decision making.
The Transportation and Telecommunications Committee produced three bills NeFU strongly supported that dealt with different facets of high speed internet broadband deployment and became law. Sen. Friesen’s LB388 introduced on behalf of the Governor provided for $20 million a year for two years to finance broadband construction and raised the up and download speeds to a much more appropriate 100 Mbps. Sen. Bostelman’s LB338 and LB398 that dealt with broadband speeds and services, and redirected some portions of Public Service Commission funding were also passed. “These three bills represent real progress towards the march towards state wide affordable, accessible high speed broadband connections. We still have a lot of work to do and a long ways to go, but the efforts of the 2021 session put us in much better position than we were in before. We give a lot of credit to Chairman Friesen and his Committee,” President Hansen concluded.
NeFU has been actively involved in the final issue the 2021 Legislature will have to deal with in Special Session probably in September, redistricting. The Census data is not yet available to complete that task. NeFU has been working with a wide range of organizations to keep partisan criteria out of the redistricting process, and provide for as much transparency and citizen involvement as possible.
In summary, NeFU was pleased with their overall successes in the 2021 session. They urged farmers, ranchers, and rural citizens to continue to get informed, constructively engaged, and work with others to make sure the views and concerns of the Second House, the citizens are heard in the legislative process.
Nebraska Farmers Union is a general farm organization with 3,841 farm and ranch family members dedicated to protecting and enhancing the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers and ranchers, and their rural communities. Since 1913, Nebraska Farmers Union has helped organize over 445 cooperatives.