COLUMN: A free market approach to clean Groundwater for Nebraskans 

COLUMN: A free market approach to clean Groundwater for Nebraskans 
Nebraska Senator Teresa Ibach, District 44. Photo by Craig Chandler / University Communication.
April 16th, 2024 | By Sen. Teresa Ibach 

Corn, soybeans, livestock and ethanol are currencies that have powered Nebraska for more than a century, enabling our state to engage in domestic and global markets and ensuring our economic strength. But the challenges our farmers and ranchers face continue to evolve. They must deliver increasingly higher yields to meet demand for food. Like all of us, farmers are paying much more now for the inputs to grow food, fuel and fiber.

Even as the costs of production agriculture continue to rise, new on-farm tools, both precision and input options, have emerged that may save farmers – and Nebraskans – money in the long run and offer a powerful, immediate solution to an emerging challenge in our state: safe, clean water for all. 

This legislative session, I introduced, and on April 11th the Legislature unanimously passed, the Nitrogen Reduction Incentive Act, which seeks to make it easier for farmers to implement new tools and practices that reduce nitrate leaching. Nitrogen-fixing microbes and other on-farm solutions including emerging technology, can reduce the amount of synthetic fertilizer and make the fertilizer applied more available to the plants they are intended for.  My legislation will help to reduce the cost to farmers to explore these tools. 

Changes to on-farm businesses can be financially and practically challenging. Incentive programs help to break down barriers and encourage farmers who have considered these methods to give it a go.  I believe in the power of the free market, which is why these proposed incentives are designed to be time bound and phase out over the course of five years. This bill is an “on ramp”, and I believe that these tools must – and will – compete based on the value they provide to farmers. Over time, I am confident these practices will become an integral part of many farm businesses, not only from a nutrient management perspective but also as an effective way of supporting yields, ensuring soil health and meeting demand for food.   

One of the many things I love about Nebraskans is our ability to be pragmatic when faced with issues that threaten our communities and way of life. With one in five public water supplies and private wells in Nebraska testing high for nitrates, this is an issue that impacts us all. That is why the Nitrogen Reduction Incentive Act has attracted such a diverse, bipartisan group of supporters. This includes the Nebraska Corn Growers Association and the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce – as well as groups you don’t often see working on the same side, like The Nature Conservancy and Sierra Club. 

I am proud to see legislators from both sides of the aisle recognize the opportunity and come together for the good of our state. I’m also proud that this bill sets an example for other states and regions who face similar challenges. The passage of the Nitrogen Reduction Incentive Act will prove to be a return on the investment for all Nebraskans. 


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