Neb. Farm Bureau: Sharp Ag Land Value Increases Again Show Need For Property Tax Reform
The following statement was released today by Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson: “Yesterday the Nebraska Department of Revenue’s Property Assessment Division released the real property value percentage change by property type from 2013 to 2014. As expected, agricultural land valuations again increased, this time by 29.12 percent over the previous year.”
“This increase ensures the statewide valuation of agricultural land for tax purposes will have doubled since 2009 as our estimates suggest nearly a 120 percent increase in valuation since that time. Our estimates also suggest that due to the increase, the statewide property taxes paid by farm and ranch families on agricultural land will near $1 billion in 2015.”
“As we have pointed out on many occasions the unprecedented growth in valuation on agricultural land and the associated increases in property taxes are carried by farm and ranch families who make up less than three percent of our population, but pay more than 25 percent of the property taxes collected statewide.”
“While the Legislature placing more monies into the property tax credit program in the vein of property tax relief is appreciated, the fact remains that Nebraska farmers and ranchers pay the third highest property taxes in the U.S. and will continue to do so until something is done to address this issue.”
— Nebraska Farm Bureau
Johanns Writes FDA On Proposed Livestock Feed Rule
U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., recently wrote Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg urging FDA to exempt raw agricultural commodities, distillers grain and other byproducts from a promised revision of a proposed rule dealing with livestock feed.
As first proposed, the rule would add new requirements to producers of distillers grains — including brewers and ethanol plants — and increase the cost for livestock producers who use these byproducts.
“As currently drafted, these new requirements would be illogical and could bring a safe, mutually-beneficial system to a screeching halt,” Johanns said. “The proposal would increase costs and create massive amounts of landfill waste — without any improvements to food safety. I’m glad FDA has agreed to revisit this rule and I will continue to advocate for food safety regulations based on sound science and common sense.”
Office of U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb.
Neb. Counties Designated as Disaster Areas Due to Drought
Farm Service Agency State Executive Director Dan Steinkruger announced eight counties have been designated as primary natural disaster areas due to the ongoing drought affecting Nebraska. Those counties are Chase, Frontier, Hayes, Hitchcock, Keith, Lincoln, Perkins and Red Willow.
These counties were declared a Secretarial Disaster on April 9, based on the U. S. Drought Monitor drought intensity value.
“The eight counties that received the Primary Secretarial Disaster Designation due to the drought intensity value (Extreme -D3) affecting their small grain grazing,” said Steinkruger.
With the D3 classification, eligible livestock producers that graze small grain acres are eligible to apply for 2014 Livestock Forage Disaster Program payments.
There are 10 counties in Nebraska that are contiguous to the counties receiving the primary declaration in Nebraska. These counties are also eligible for certain disaster assistance due to drought. The ten counties are Arthur, Custer, Dawson, Deuel, Dundy, Furnas, Logan, Garden, Gosper and McPherson.
This designation authorizes Emergency Loans for eligible producers.
— Farm Service Agency
Getting The Next Generation Of Farmers & Ranchers Started Right
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack recently announced the availability of $19 million in funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program — a program that provides competitive grants to community organizations, farm and ranch groups, academic institutions, and extension, to provide education, outreach, training and technical assistance to beginning farmers, ranchers and foresters.
According to Traci Bruckner of the Center for Rural Affairs, the BFRDP grant program is administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which awards the grants through a competitive review process to organizations and institutions conducting programs to help beginning farmers, ranchers and foresters.
Applications for the funding rounds announced today are due June 12, 2014.
The presence of the education, outreach, training and technical assistance programs funded by BFRDP is one of the reasons we saw an increase in young, beginning farmers and ranchers in Nebraska in the recent Census of Agriculture, Bruckner added.
And this is the only federal program exclusively dedicated to training the next generation of farmers and ranchers.
Bruckner explained further that, in Nebraska, nearly 1,000 more farmers claim farming or ranching as their primary occupation than in the last census. For “years on present farm,” Nebraska grew in every category, from two years or less to 10 years or more. In particular, farmer and rancher numbers grew in lower age brackets. The under 25 years category grew by 18 percent; those aged 25 to 34 grew by 13 percent (up nationally as well), and farmers aged 35 to 44 grew by 10 percent.
— Center For Rural Affairs, in Lyons, Neb.
LB402 Signing A Positive Step For Wind & Solar Development In Neb.
Nebraska Farmers Union President John Hansen praised Governor Dave Heineman, State Senators Mello, Davis, Schilz, and Dubas, along with a diverse coalition made up of farm, business, environmental, conservation, and public power stakeholders for successfully updating the state’s C-BED (Community-Based Energy Development) law with the passage of LB402.
LB402 updates and expands the criteria for use of the C-BED law to qualify for sales tax abatement including solar energy in addition to wind energy, allowing Nebraska content of labor, materials, professional services and components, allow corporations domiciled in Nebraska to meet the definition of “qualified owner”, and reduces the qualifying percentage from 33% to 25% to qualify.
“This update of our state’s C-BED law will make it easier to use the C-BED model for renewable energy projects of all sizes. It also puts smaller renewable energy projects on an equal footing with projects over $20 million in size who can use the sales tax abatement contained in LB104 passed in 2013,” Hansen said.
— Nebraska Farmers Union
Neb. Cattlemen Pleased With Passage Of LR 399
Immigration reform is an issue of great importance to many in agriculture, especially to Nebraska Cattlemen. Due to needed updates in current immigration laws and that the beef industry relies on immigrants as a substantial portion of its labor force, Nebraska Cattlemen supports federal and state immigration reform.
On April 10, LR399 introduced by Senator John Wightman, a resolution which calls upon Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform, was passed. Nebraska Cattlemen is extremely pleased with the passage of LR 399 and the support of many Nebraska State Senators
— Nebraska Cattlemen’s Association
Compromise Reached, Neb. Water Bill Passes
One of Farm Bureau’s goals heading into the 2014 Legislative session was to help get more state dollars committed to helping manage Nebraska’s water resources statewide.
That goal was achieved this week when the Legislature passed a bill that would allow a restructured Natural Resources Commission to tap into $20 million in new funds dedicated for water programs and projects to help ensure long-term availability of water for Nebraska water users.
State lawmakers voted 48-0 in giving final approval to LB 1098 this week. The bill had become controversial during first round floor debate, but a compromise agreement reached by lawmakers set the stage for the bill’s advancement. The amended version of the bill calls for the expansion of the Nebraska Natural Resources Commission from 16 members to 27 members. It also gives that body the authority to oversee the use of dollars allocated to the newly established Water Sustainability Fund to tackle new water related projects.
The compromise version also requires Natural Resources Districts and the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources to engage in a “basin-wide” water planning process that includes involvement of other water users in basins where three or more of the NRDs have integrated management plans. The Republic River basin would be the only area affected by this provision of the bill at this time.
The $20 million in the Water Sustainability Fund was part of $31 million in total dollars allocated for water management by the Legislature and approved by the governor this session.
— Nebraska Farm Bureau
UNL Unveils New Online Drought Risk Atlas
The National Drought Mitigation Center, based in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s School of Natural Resources, has unveiled a new online Drought Risk Atlas that provides analysis of data on drought frequency and severity for more than 3,000 spots across the country.
“The Drought Risk Atlas contains more than 3,000 of the best climate record stations in the U.S. and houses more than 1 billion records of index calculations alone,” said Mark Svoboda, climatologist, leader of the NDMC’s monitoring program area and SNR geoscientist.
The stations chosen for the atlas go back at least 40 years with nearly continuous data, and some go back more than 100 years.
Users can find the closest climate station and see how often drought has affected an area, how bad it has been and how long it lasted, Svoboda said.
They can look at drought through the lens of several different indices, including the U.S. Drought Monitor, the Standardized Precipitation Index (with and without evapotranspiration), the Palmer Drought Index, deciles and more. They can also choose to look at records for a cluster of stations that are near each other that exhibit similar historic patterns of drought.
Drought information is available at www.drought.unl.edu.
–University of Nebraska-Lincoln