Last week at the Capitol, a meeting was held on our interim study LR400 to examine current farm economic conditions in Nebraska and how best to aid and support beginning farmers and livestock producers in the state. The Agriculture Committee brought together the members of the Ag Leaders group (Nebraska Farm Bureau, Nebraska Cattlemen Association, Pork Producers Association, and many others) and producers to hear from the NextGen program administrator and the State FSA Director on how state and federal programs are working, respectively. Some of the questions of the interim study are to examine current statutory policies used to support beginning farmers and livestock producers, the effectiveness of such policies, and potential changes to the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Act. It also looks to determine the type of support most beneficial to beginning farm and livestock producers.
Last session I introduced LB1103 to increase the number of applicants that would be eligible for the NextGen program, which included raising the net worth from $200,000 to $1 million and exempting personal assets such as pensions and retirement plans from net worth. There was a hearty discussion at the meeting about increasing the lease for beginning farmers and the tax credit for the owner from 3 years to 5 years. We also discussed a cap on NextGen program acres eligible for a tax credit and what different ways to spread the word about NextGen to farmers that may qualify – both tenants and owners. If you would like more information, stop by their table at Husker Harvest Days or contact Karla at 471-4876 or agr.NextGen@nebraska.gov.
As a member of the Building and Maintenance Committee of the Legislature, I have traveled to several state-owned facilities around Nebraska. It is always enlightening to see the management of existing infrastructure and look at future needs. My most recent meeting last week was held at the Nebraska Department of Corrections Reception & Treatment Center (RTC), formerly the Lincoln Correctional Center & Diagnostic Evaluation Center. We had the opportunity to hear from Director of Corrections Scott Frakes as well as the Engineering Administrator, Warden, and Maintenance Manager on the current state of the RTC. Our May meeting was held at Platte River State Park where we heard from Bill Oligmueller, Game & Parks Regional Superintendent, and the director of the Department of Administrative Services. We received a tour of the park and reviewed Game & Parks budget requests.
Finally, I was the keynote speaker of the second annual Pork Expo that was held in York at the Holthus Convention Center. It was the state’s second pork expo hosted by the Alliance for the Future of Agriculture (AFAN). Nebraska is the sixth largest pork producer so it is one of our state’s biggest and most important industries. The event included many speakers, breakout sessions, a panel, the annual NPPA meeting and a social hour. I had a very pleasant time talking to members, producers and processors, particularly about the recently passed LB1261 that amends the Nebraska Advantage Rural Development Act. The new law raises the ceiling for accepted applications from the current $1 million to $10 million, and the refundable credit against taxes allowed a taxpayer with an approved application would increase from the current 10% of the investment not to exceed $150,000 to 10% of the investment not to exceed $500,000 per application. If you have questions about this bill or others, please contact my office.