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Throughout the course of each legislative session, I often become engaged in legislation that is brought by other State Senators. From time to time I become aware of this legislation by visiting with my colleagues or by hearing from constituents. As I learn about bills that are of interest to my constituents, I may investigate them further, and if it is a piece of legislation I am supportive of, I will sign onto the legislation.
One of the bills that was brought to my attention by farmers from District #24 is LB 227, a bill brought by State Senator Dan Hughes, which would update Nebraska’s state Right to Farm Act. As it was originally written in 1982, Nebraska’s Right to Farm Act would maintain that a farm or public grain warehouse cannot be found to be a public or private nuisance if it existed before a change in the land use or occupancy of land in its locality and would not have been a nuisance prior to the change. LB 227, however, would extend that protection to a farm or public grain warehouse if there is “no significant change” in the type of operation and if the farm or warehouse has been in operation for at least one year and was not a nuisance at the time it began. Additionally a “significant change” would not include a conversion of one type of farm or warehouse to another, a change in the size or ownership of the operation, the enrollment, reduction or cessation of participation in a government program or the operation’s adoption of new technology. Finally, the farm or grain warehouse could not be found a nuisance if “reasonable techniques” are used to keep dust, noise, insects and odors to a minimum and the farm or grain warehouse complies with applicable laws and regulations, including the zoning regulations of local governing bodies.
Many farm organizations supported this legislation and I was happy to sign on as a cosponsor. Preserving our farms in Nebraska is critical to the success of our state. Livestock production specifically is a key economic driver. In 2016, the University of Nebraska reported roughly 56 percent of all agriculture commodity sales in Nebraska were attributed to livestock. The analysis also estimates that the direct economic impact of livestock production in Nebraska is $8.5 billion. The livestock sector also plays a role beyond direct impacts. It is estimated that when you take into account crop production, food processors, wholesalers, and transportation businesses, for each $1 spent in direct economic impact from livestock, an additional $.62 in sales is generated outside the agriculture production complex. Using this multiplier impact, the total impact from livestock production across Nebraska is closer to $13.8 billion.
When you stop to look at the analysis related to job creation from this industry, a 2012 report by the University stated that livestock production in Nebraska has approximately 41,000 jobs related directly to the industry. The estimated $13.8 billion is considered to be a conservative estimate, as it does not include these economic impacts in related industries, nor does it include the wage income in those sectors – but it does significantly demonstrate the impact of livestock on the state.
Estimates show that 49% of all Nebraska farms and ranches are involved in some type of livestock or poultry production. As of the beginning of 2018, Nebraska ranked #1 in the nation with cattle in feedlots with a capacity of more than 1,000 head. According the 2017 data, Nebraska was first in commercial red meat production and second among all states in both cash receipts from all livestock and products and the number of raised cattle and calves.
While serving in the Legislature, I have worked with our local counties to make sure they were taking advantage of this booming industry, offering support for York, Polk, and Seward Counties as they considered becoming Livestock Friendly counties. I have also encouraged and supported individual farm families who have approached me about starting or growing a livestock operation. We are fortunate in District #24 that our counties have established fair and clear guidelines for livestock operations, providing designated areas of our counties where livestock can coexist on family farms with small communities and rural neighbors in the region. Properly managed operations that follow zoning and environmental guidelines allow for expansion and growth in this industry, while also allowing for a buffer from urban or suburban areas.
At its core, District #24 is driven by agriculture and it is my hope that our farm families will continue to be supported by their neighbors as they move forward in diversifying their agriculture incomes, while preserving their farms for future generations. In many cases, starting or expanding a livestock operation is a way a family can bring a child back or keep a child on the family farm. And as Nebraskans, I believe that is something we all can get behind.
LB 227 would update our current state statutes related to “Right to Farm” and would address the growing challenge of a population further and further removed from the day-to-day operation of family farms. I’m hopeful this legislation will become law and I look forward to the continuation of growth in District #24 related to agriculture.
As always, if we can be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My door is open and I have made it a goal to be accessible to the constituents of our district. Please stop by any time. My e-mail address is email@example.com, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Tyler and Katie are always available to assist you with your needs. If I am not immediately available, please do not hesitate to work with them to address any issues that you may need assistance. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.