2019 Nebraska Legislative Report

-by Al Juhnke, Executive Director, Nebraska Pork Producers Association

The Nebraska State Legislature adjourned sine die on Friday May 31. Senators have now returned to their home districts reacquainting themselves with family, friends and work.

This just completed first year of a two-year biennial session has drawn mixed reviews. The only item that needed to be acted on was the state’s two-year budget. Sen. John Stinner, chairman of the Finance Committee, put together a solid package that was supported by the Senate making sure our government will continue to offer the services we all depend on in our day-to-day lives.

At the start of the session in January, a group of newly elected members joined their seasoned colleagues in Lincoln proclaiming Nebraska’s heavy property tax burden to be the number one issue needing attention. After multiple hours of Finance Committee testimony and work, and pointed debate on the floor of the Senate, a solution to the property tax issue once again eluded the body.

Sen. Lou Ann Linehan, Finance Committee Chair, has pledged to continue working over the summer to put together a property tax relief and reform package that will garner the 33 votes necessary to pass next session. While property tax burdens have been put forward as an agriculture issue over the past few years, residential and business properties in our towns and cities are also seeing steep increases. This would seem to set the table for rural and metro senators to work together on a solution to this property tax problem. The clock is ticking as another group is out collecting signatures to put the property tax relief question on the November 2020 election ballot for Nebraskans to vote on.

Sen. Dan Hughes successfully authored a bill to update Nebraska’s right-to-farm nuisance laws. This legislation was broadly supported by farm groups including

the Nebraska Pork Producers Association. The new bill clarifies the time in which a person must file a nuisance complaint (2-years) as well as makes it more difficult to for class action lawsuits to be filed against an individual farmer. Nebraska has decent right-to-farm laws already. This upgrade will assure rural neighbors and our farmers can continue to peacefully co-exist and we don’t see situations develop like those in the North Carolina countryside involving their pork producers.

Prior to the next session convening in January 2020, there is interim work to do beyond property taxes. Groups will be meeting to discuss issues such as accelerated broadband deployment around the state, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture’s role in livestock disease prevention and response, and how we can better promote agriculture processing, production and marketing. We will continue to be a part of these and other discussions this summer and fall.

Because of the investments made by our Strategic Investment Program (SIP) partners, the Nebraska Pork Producers Association continues to have a seat the table on behalf of our farmers. This public policy advocacy is important to our long-term sustainability as an industry and to the day-to-day success of our livestock growers. Thanks again to those producers who are a part of this SIP program.