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Serving: NE

Center for Rural Affairs sees positive results from Unicameral session

Curt Arens Planter in field
AG POLICY: In the first session of the 107th Nebraska Legislature, there were numerous policy issues that were debated, and several new laws passed, that affect ag producers. The Center for Rural Affairs saw positive movement on many of its priority issues.
Bills dealing with meat and poultry inspection law, and a Farm to School Network, were among the big wins.

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of articles covering the recently completed first session of the 107th Nebraska Legislature from different perspectives.

As the first session of the 107th Nebraska Legislature came to a close in late May, several farm and ranch policy organizations reflected on the effects of actions taken during the session.

Gov. Pete Ricketts called the session “historic” in his annual “Sine Die” address to legislators.

Nebraska Farmer asked Nathan Beacom, senior policy associate with the Center for Rural Affairs, based in Lyons, Neb., about how CFRA priority bills fared during this past session.

Meat inspection

“All in all, this was a pretty positive session for our priorities,” Beacom says. “Chief among these, in the ag world, were LB324 and LB396.”

LB324 amends the state’s meat and poultry inspection law to allow people to purchase shares in a herd or a live animal and receive cuts of meat through a local locker.

“It also creates the Independent Processor Assistance Program, which will provide grants for small, independent meat processors to expand their operations,” Beacom explains. “This is good for the small cattle operations and other livestock farmers who had nowhere to send their animals after the pandemic bottlenecks last year. This will provide other options and markets for farmers and promote local commerce.”

LB396 creates the state Farm to School Network, helping make connections between public schools and Nebraska farmers.

“This means that more of our schoolchildren’s food will be sourced from local producers,” Beacom says. “This is good for producers because it provides a new, consistent revenue stream, and it also gives kids access to healthy food while teaching them about where that food comes from.”

CFRA also supported passage of LB432, which included provisions for the extension of the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit, a program to incentivize generational farm transfer in Nebraska. The center supported LB507, which banned the use of treated seed corn in ethanol production. LB388 will bring $20 million in broadband investment to rural areas, and LR5 accepted the findings of the Legislature’s Healthy Soils Task Force.

“From our perspective, these were all positive developments,” Beacom says. “We had supported a bill, LB98, that would give special valuation to agricultural land within city limits of certain smaller towns in the state. This bill was designed to both give the grower a fair shake and to remove obstacles to the growth of smaller cities.” But the bill stalled early in the session.

As Beacom notes, property tax debates remain as complicated as ever, and it can be expected that more revisions and debate surrounding LB1107 will take place in the future.

Next session, CFRA is looking into ways to support Double Up Food Bucks, a public-private partnership program that channels Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program funds toward local producers.

Learn more about CFRA’s take on the recently completed Nebraska legislative session at cfra.org.

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