Tag Archives: Nebraska Farm Bureau

Nebraskans are ready to reap the benefits of the United States – Mexico – Canada – Agreement (USMCA) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi should act immediately to secure Congressional passage of USMCA to help them do so. That’s the message delivered by Nebraska elected officials and agriculture leaders during an Oct. 26 news conference to highlight the importance of USMCA, amidst Speaker Pelosi’s visit to Omaha for a political event.

The USMCA would replace the more than 25-year-old, North American Free Trade Agreement between the countries, modernizing the U.S. trading relationship with two of the U.S. largest trading partners, providing major benefits to U.S. businesses and consumers.

In preparation for the Pelosi visit, nearly 4,000 Nebraskans signed onto a letter to the Speaker encouraging Pelosi to act swiftly to pass USMCA legislation in the House.

While the Trump Administration negotiated and signed the USMCA deal more than a year ago, the agreement can’t be implemented until ratified by Congress. The U.S. Senate is expected to pass the agreement once acted upon in the House. Action in the House is entirely dependent Pelosi scheduling a USMCA vote.

Given that Mexican officials ratified the USMCA in June and Canadian officials are waiting to see if the U.S. will follow suit, it’s critical the House take swift action to advance the USMCA deal.

Quotes:

Steve Nelson, Nebraska Farm Bureau president
“Mexico and Canada are two of Nebraska’s largest and most valuable trading partners. Those two countries collectively purchase more than 21 percent of Nebraska’s total agriculture exports. It’s time for Speaker Pelosi to bring USMCA to floor of the House for a vote so we can continue to move forward in bringing long-term stability to these markets for Nebraska’s farm and ranch families.”

U.S. Senator Ben Sasse
“Talk about shameless: Speaker Pelosi is raising money for socialists while she’s picking our pockets. Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers need trade and Speaker Pelosi, the nation’s most powerful Democrat, is stonewalling the USMCA deal. Knock it off, Nancy — schedule the vote.”

U.S. Senator Deb Fischer
“Mexico and Canada are our two biggest trading partners. USMCA is a good deal for Nebraska agriculture and it’s also important for the manufacturing sector. Speaker Pelosi needs to stop her delay tactics so we can pass this critical agreement.”

Congressman Don Bacon (NE-02)
“USMCA is critical to our agricultural industry, expanded trade, and every community across Nebraska’s 93 counties. The trade agreement was signed in November of 2018 and has been awaiting Nancy Pelosi’s action for months. All former Secretaries of Agriculture since President Reagan have urged its ratification and 250 bi-partisan members of the House have indicated their support for it. Pelosi’s hate for President Trump and her unwillingness to do anything that could look favorable for him is hurting our trade, agriculture and economic growth.”

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (NE-01)
“Get er done.”

Congressman Adrian Smith (NE-03)
“The cost of delay is too great. It’s time to pass USMCA and begin unlocking the benefits of a modernized agreement. USMCA is a win for U.S. farmers, producers, and consumers. Speaker Pelosi should schedule a vote without any further delay or political games.”

Gov. Pete Ricketts
“President Donald Trump’s new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement is critical for Nebraska as we work to grow opportunities for farm and ranch families in a time of low commodity prices. Sadly, Nancy Pelosi and Washington Democrats in Congress have dragged their feet on approving the trade deal. The longer they delay, the more Nebraska’s ag producers are going to miss out on opportunities. It’s time to put politics aside and to seal the deal!”

LINCOLN, NEB. – “Property tax relief remains the highest of priorities for Nebraskans. Today’s announcement that state tax receipts for September outpaced revenue projections is good news. With total net tax receipts for the current fiscal year exceeding projections there is a great opportunity for the Legislature to put those excess revenues to work in lowering Nebraskan’s property tax bills. We look forward to working with Gov. Ricketts and our state’s elected officials to ensure those dollars are used for property tax relief.”

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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska lawmakers who pledged to lower property taxes are getting ready to try again with a proposal that would boost state aid for K-12 public schools while restricting the districts’ taxing power.

The tentative proposal, which has generated strong opposition from educators, would closely resemble one that lawmakers considered earlier this year. Its sponsors said they’re still working to address school officials’ biggest concerns.

“There’s a lot that could trip us up, but I think we’re headed in the right direction,” said Sen. Lou Ann Linehan, chairwoman of the Legislature’s Revenue Committee.

Linehan said committee members have met almost weekly since June and consulted with Gov. Pete Ricketts. She said she hopes to have a new bill ready for legislative debate by Dec. 15, several weeks before the 2020 session begins.

Nebraska public schools consume the largest share of local property taxes that have risen sharply over the last decade, drawing complaints from farmers, ranchers and some homeowners throughout the state.

The proposal would guarantee funding for all public schools, including rural districts that currently don’t qualify for state equalization aid because they have so few students and are surrounded by valuable farmland that isn’t taxed at the highest possible rate. Agricultural groups say it’s unfair for farmers to shoulder the burden because farm incomes are down and many operations are struggling.

School officials said they’re most concerned that state officials won’t keep their promise to provide a long-term funding boost for schools in exchange for restricting their taxing authority.

Some larger districts say the increases they would get under the proposal would still be a net loss in revenue per student because their enrollments are growing so fast. Those schools also tend to be more diverse, with many low-income, special needs and non-English-speaking students.

“We’ve got to make sure those kids have the same opportunity as any other student in the state,” said Kyle Fairbairn, executive director of the Greater Nebraska Schools Association, a coalition of 24 of the state’s largest districts.

Fairbairn said it’s unclear how lawmakers will find the money to pay for additional school aid. Earlier this year, lawmakers talked about eliminating sales tax exemptions and increasing Nebraska’s sales tax to raise money, but the idea faced strong opposition from the governor.

Linehan said she understands school officials’ concerns about whether the state aid will be sustainable, and legislators are working to address them. But she said it would be “really a bad idea” to do nothing about property taxes this coming year because farmers and homeowners are feeling the pinch.

Supporters say the measure would ease the burden on homeowners and farmers while fulfilling the state’s constitutional obligation to pay for K-12 public education.

“It’s good policy, and in the long term, it’s the way we should be doing things,” said Sen. Mike Groene, a key architect of the plan.

Groene said Nebraska relies far too heavily on property taxes to pay for schools, and providing more state money is “the most equitable and fair way to fix the problem.”

Nebraska Farm Bureau has offered the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) a series of recommendations to reform the way beef cattle are marketed. The underlying concept of Farm Bureau’s suggestions are to create a more transparent and value-based system that would more closely link the prices farmers and ranchers receive for their cattle to the value of beef products sold at the wholesale and retail levels. Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson shared the recommendations with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in an October 2 letter.

“With only four major meatpackers, many Nebraska cattle producers have expressed concerns about the level of control that exists within the consolidated meat packing industry, specifically in the way of packer captive supplies of cattle and the diminishing cash market for live cattle. We believe reexamining the cattle pricing system and moving toward one where cattle prices and cattle contract prices are discovered under a more transparent and value-based system would be beneficial in addressing producer concerns and allow the cattle market to better respond to actual supply and demand conditions,” said Steve Nelson, Nebraska Farm Bureau president.

Beef producers’ concerns about the potential for anti-competitive actions in cattle markets heightened after a July fire at a Tyson meat processing facility in Holcomb, Kan. with producers seeing prices paid for cattle drop while meatpackers made significant profits. Nebraska Farm Bureau had urged, and USDA stepped forward, in investigating the situation under the powers given to the agency under the federal Packers and Stockyards Act; the long-standing legislation targeted to eliminating anti-competitive measures in livestock markets.

“We have no preconceived outcome in mind for the Packers and Stockyards investigation and our state’s cattle producers are grateful USDA is doing its due diligence. However, we believe the best way to address real or perceived manipulation concerns is to move to a value discovery system that more closely links what cattle producers receive for the beef they produce and the value of that product as it nears the end consumer,” said Nelson.

Nebraska Farm Bureau’s recommendations to USDA for changes under the Packers and Stockyards Act include:

  • Create regulatory standards requiring that cattle marketing contracts have a set, negotiated base price before cattle are committed for delivery.

  • Assure that cattle marketing contracts utilize reference or base prices that are more broad-based and publicly available rather than the shrinking cash markets.

  • Consideration of requiring contract standards that have reference prices or base prices that are more value-based such as using wholesale price cuts, retail meat values, or beef cut-out values. Requiring base or reference prices for cattle contracts that are more value-based up the beef supply chain would reduce, by market forces, any real or perceived incentives for packers to manipulate captive supplies in order to drive down local cash markets.

  • Consideration to developing a live cattle value index which would be required to be used as a reference or base price standard for cattle marketing contracts.  The index could use a combination of average spot cash prices, average weekly close of nearby live cattle futures, weekly average of beef cutout value, and weekly average of retail meat values.  Using this live cattle value index would help ensure that cattle are marketed on a value discovery system rather than a price discovery system.

“This has been a challenging year for Nebraska beef producers as weather, trade disputes, rising debt issues, increased input costs, and now difficult marketing conditions have created great stress on the largest sector of Nebraska’s agriculture-based economy. We appreciate the work USDA has done on many fronts for farmers and ranchers. It’s our hope Secretary Perdue and USDA will consider these ideas for reforms to move our beef industry forward toward a value-based cattle marketing system that would offer true reform,” said Nelson.