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Tom Brandt

Sen. Tom Brandt

District 32

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From Nebraska Examiner coverage:

State lawmakers [gave] 43-0 first-round approval to a bill that would set up a working group to seek Nebraska’s designation as one of four “regional clean hydrogen hubs” in the U.S. working to expand use of the green fuel.

The federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act set aside $8 billion to create four national hydrogen hubs to link up producers of hydrogen with industrial users and expand the use of hydrogen to generate power or fuel planes and vehicles.

State Sen. Bruce Bostelman of Brainard, who sponsored Legislative Bill 1099, called Nebraska a “prime candidate” to become one of the hubs, in large part due to the large-scale production of clean hydrogen by Monolith Materials and because of the state’s central location.

That company, which moved from California to Nebraska in 2018, produces clean hydrogen and carbon black using natural gas. Carbon black has a variety of uses, including in tires and other rubber products. But Bostelman said carbon black has traditionally been produced using oil, which is a much dirtier process than using natural gas.

Monolith plans to use most of its hydrogen to produce anhydrous ammonia fertilizer as part of a $1 billion expansion of its Hallam, Nebraska, plant later this year. It would become the state’s largest user of electricity, officials said.

Plymouth Sen. Tom Brandt, who is a farmer, praised the Monolith project, which is in his legislative district. Not only has the company created 90 good-paying, “clean energy” jobs and invested $100 million in its existing plant, he said, but it will create another 200 jobs with its expansion.

“It’s an economic success story for the State of Nebraska,” Brandt said.

Brandt said that will benefit farmers, who have seen costs of the fertilizer rise from $400 a ton to $1,500 a ton. The U.S. is the largest importer of anhydrous ammonia in the world.

From the Unicameral Update:

Early childhood education programs are included in the Nebraska farm-to-school program under a bill given final approval Feb. 28.

Lawmakers created the program in 2021 with passage of a bill sponsored by Plymouth Sen. Tom Brandt that requires the state Department of Education to administer a program to help provide locally grown and minimally processed food to elementary and secondary school students in Nebraska.

LB758, introduced by Brandt this session, expands the law to include early childhood education programs licensed under the state’s Child Care Licensing Act.

Senators passed the bill on a 46-0 vote.

From KLKN 8 coverage:

Sen. Tom Brandt hopes to form a domestic abuse review team to see what more can be done to prevent [deaths due to domestic abuse].

Family members who have had loved ones killed in this horrible way spoke out.

“My mom was shot to death in her own home by a person she worked so hard to protect herself from,” Andie Koch said. “Because of these real-life experiences, I strongly believe Nebraska needs more laws surrounding domestic violence and protection orders.”

Koch lived a nightmare as she watched her mom deal with domestic violence, and ultimately lose her life to it.

She and others shared their stories to help others.

“Doing what we are doing right now is I think what our mom would want us to do: to help save other women from domestic assault relationships or even murders,” Koch said. “It means a lot to a lot of families, I think.”

Chad Christiansen said, “For me and my family, it’s just the ability to know that my sister’s death isn’t in vain and that we are trying to fix a system that’s broken and that failed her, so that it doesn’t fail future families.”

The domestic abuse review team would evaluate domestic abuse cases to see where law enforcement, the government or nonprofits could step in and do more to prevent deaths.

The bill would also give smaller communities more help to fight this problem.

“Three of my four counties, the sheriff is the law enforcement for the entire county, and they are stretched very thin,” Brandt said. “Anything that we can do to enhance their ability to stop domestic violence and stop domestic violence from escalating to death, we are more than willing to look at.”

Nebraska is one of only nine states that do not have something like this already in place. The other 41 states are seeing success with their programs.

“Oftentimes, the victim of the domestic violence has a protection order, or a PO, out there, and it’s a piece of paper. A piece of paper often doesn’t stop someone from walking through the piece of paper and doing some serious harm to the victim,” Brandt said. “Can we as a state do some things to calm things down and keep people apart until calmer heads prevail? That is what the intent of this bill is.”

Senator Update
February 28th, 2022

We are getting towards the end of hearings on bills introduced in the 2022 session, with the last day of hearings being March 3rd, after which the Legislature will turn to all-day debate, including late nights. This also means that winter is almost over and we are headed towards spring! I would like to highlight two of my bills that have had hearings recently with powerful testimony.

The first is LB756, which had its hearing on February 17th in the Health and Human Services Committee. The bill eliminates reference to “clandestine drug lab” and replaces it with the language “contaminated property” and changes meth reporting procedures and enforcement to include public health authorities. The bill came from our office working with Peggy Galloway, Director of Jefferson County Diversion Services, and Mark Shroenrock, Chairman of the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners, who both testified along with Jefferson County Attorney Joe Casson about the dangers of meth, particularly the effects on innocent children living in contaminated residences. We need to make sure these contaminated properties are properly cleaned before they are being rented or sold again.

The number one drug threat over the last 20 years in rural and urban communities in Nebraska is methamphetamine, and it has gotten more accessible and cheaper over that time. The amount of meth seized in Nebraska has surged almost 300% in the last five years with law enforcement agencies confiscating 768 pounds in 2021, including meth spiked with fentanyl which renders it more potent and deadly. According to Acting U.S. Attorney Jan Sharp, meth is now found in Nebraska’s biggest cities, smallest towns and within the state’s tribal reservations, so I am going to do what I can to address this. 

The other bill is LB 1009, which would adopt the Domestic Abuse Death Review Act, and had its hearing last Friday. LB 1009 creates a Domestic Abuse Review Team to be appointed by the Attorney General, whose office we have been working with on the bill and who testified in support at the hearing. We also heard heart-wrenching testimonies from the families of domestic abuse victims and the need to do everything we can to prevent these kinds of deaths from happening to anyone else. The bill seeks to prevent future domestic abuse deaths by analyzing the incidence, causes, and contributing factors of domestic abuse deaths in this state and developing recommendations through an annual report. Nebraska is one of only nine states that does not have such a death review team. 

From Local 4 KSNB Hastings:

When a software aspect of a piece of farm equipment fails, someone from the dealership needs to come out and fix it, which can turn into an expensive repair.

LB 543 would take out the need for a dealership representative from having to come fix it.

State Senator Tom Brandt … says that as a farmer, if he broke a piece of steel on a tractor or combine he could it himself, but if it was a software issue it was another story. Brandt says even though this is new to farm equipment, the legislation is not.

“When you go through small-town Nebraska, any town Nebraska, the reason you have independent mechanics still fixing modern cars and trucks is because they had the same thing happen in 2012,” Brandt said.

Farmers and ranchers have also spoken out against the regulations, with one saying the whole process is frustrating.

“We’re isolated where we live an hour in good time to get to town for the technician to get out here, and then getting satellite service to download the information while they’re out here is almost impossible so all-in-all it’s really frustrating,” rancher Scott Potmesil said.

From Brownfield Ag News:

Nebraska could be the first state to give farmers the right to repair their own equipment.

Farmer Doug Bartek grows corn and soybeans near Lincoln and says dealerships are unfairly passing the burden of fixing equipment onto producers. “The price of repairs at our local dealerships is getting just astronomical.”

State Senator Tom Brandt, a farmer and Republican from Plymouth, has introduced legislation that would require dealerships to provide access to digital repairs. “They really don’t want to see this so it can be business as usual. It’s been a good revenue stream to send a mechanic or technician with the laptop computer.  They come to your farm, plug it in and reset your system.”

He says although several states have previously introduced similar legislation, measures stalled.

Brandt tells Brownfield that’s where farmers pay the price. “A modern machine will not start until it’s been recent. They usually charge a mechanic’s wage for that guy to come out.  That might be $140 an hour for him to come out, plug the computer in, resent your machine so your machine will start that you made the repair to and the clock doesn’t stop until the guy gets back to the dealership.”

Brandt says he hopes this puts pressure on the major dealerships to sign a national memorandum of understanding that would create a platform for owners and third-party mechanics to have access to digital repairs.

From the Unicameral Update:

The Appropriations Committee heard testimony Feb. 9 on a proposal that would use federal pandemic relief funds to assist independent meat processors in Nebraska.

Eligibility requirements were outlined in a bill sponsored by Brandt that passed last session. Grant funds could be used for equipment, inspection costs, eligible education or workforce programs and expansion, modification or construction of buildings.

LB755, sponsored by Plymouth Sen. Tom Brandt, would appropriate $10 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to the state Department of Agriculture for the Independent Processor Assistance Program for small and medium meat processors.

Brandt said the pandemic “greatly disrupted” Nebraska’s food supply chain. When large meat processing plants reduced line speeds, farmers turned to local processors to fill the void, he said, but those small processors are struggling.

“This created a bottleneck at every local meat locker in the state,” Brandt said. “They simply do not have the capacity or equipment to keep up with demand.”

John Hladik of the Center for Rural Affairs also testified in favor of the bill. During the pandemic, approximately 59,000 meat processing workers in Nebraska became infected with COVID-19, he said, and 269 lost their lives. The result was limited production at meatpacking plants across the state, he said, and the industry has not yet recovered.

At least 18 other states have used ARPA money to fund programs similar to the one outlined in LB755, Hladik said, and his organization estimates that approximately 80 Nebraska small businesses would qualify for assistance under the bill.

Owners of several small meat processing operations also testified in support of the proposal, including Brianna Haith of Gentert Packing Company in Holstein. Small processors need help to keep pace with the increased demand spurred by the pandemic, she said, noting that her company is booked through 2022.

“In many cases, customers are booking slaughter for animals that haven’t even been born yet due to fear of not having an appointment scheduled,” Haith said.

Ace VanDeWalle of Ord also testified in support on behalf of the Nebraska Association of Meat Processors. Grant money would be used by independent processors to increase capacity and efficiency, he said, adding that most small processors currently are operating at maximum animal processing capacity.

“New construction is expensive, generally running $250 to $450 a square foot,” VanDeWalle said. “An increase in a facility’s ability to process more animals will create additional jobs at the local level and increase revenue generated across the state.”

From the Unicameral Update:

Early childhood education programs would be included in the Nebraska farm-to-school program under a bill given first-round approval Feb. 8.

Lawmakers created the program in 2021 with passage of a bill sponsored by Plymouth Sen. Tom Brandt that requires the state Department of Education to administer a program to help provide locally grown and minimally processed food to elementary and secondary school students in Nebraska.

Brandt introduced LB758 to expand the law to include early childhood education programs, which he said were excluded from the original proposal inadvertently.

“Unfortunately, the language that we passed last year was too restrictive, so that assistance could only be offered to elementary and secondary schools,” Brandt said. “LB758 corrects this oversight.”

An Education Committee amendment, adopted 40-0, would clarify that the program’s expansion includes any early childhood program licensed under the state’s Child Care Licensing Act.

Senators then advanced the bill to select file on a 43-0 vote.

Press Release on LB543
February 9th, 2022


February 8, 2022

Contact: Senator Tom Brandt, 402-471-2711, 

Senator Brandt to Prioritize Right to Repair Bill

LINCOLN, NE – LB543, which adopts the Agricultural Equipment Right-to-Repair Act was placed on General File today. Senator Tom Brandt has designated it as his priority bill for the 107th Legislature, Second Session. “Right to repair” is the term used by farmers and independent mechanics for having access to the tools and software they need in order to be able to repair agricultural equipment they already own such as tractors and combines.

LB543 was introduced last year by Sen. Brandt and had its hearing in front of the Judiciary Committee last February. The bill was voted out of committee last week. Nebraska becomes the first U.S. state to have right to repair legislation make it this far in the legislative process. State legislatures have introduced right to repair bills in over thirty states.

“LB543 is common sense legislation meant to address repairs that farmers can do themselves, which will save our farmers crucial time and money. Right to repair is the spirit of rural Nebraska. If it breaks, you try to fix it. LB543 allows Nebraska farmers access to what they need to fix the machinery that they own and to solve problems on the farm in a timely manner,” Senator Brandt said.

“Nebraska farmers and ranchers want the same independent repair shop option for their farm equipment that auto, pickup, and truck owners already have and benefit from. Right to repair will provide basic fairness and competition for farmers and ranchers while also growing the number of small rural repair businesses across the state. We hope the Nebraska Legislature does right by our state’s farmers and ranchers and supports LB543,” said John Hansen, President of Nebraska Farmers Union and long-time supporter of the right to repair.

“Today the Agricultural Equipment Right-To-Repair Act takes another step forward. That’s another step towards protecting Nebraska’s agricultural producers, equipment repair shops, and aftermarket parts manufacturers,” said Andrew Bish, COO of Bish Enterprises. “We are thrilled the Agricultural Equipment Right-To-Repair Act is making progress again and we look forward to supporting this legislation.”

The coronavirus pandemic greatly disrupted our food supply. Outbreaks impeded work at many regional packing plants. When big plants reduced line speed, backing up finished livestock on the farm, beef and pork producers turned to local processors to fill the void. This created a bottleneck at every local meat locker plant in the state. They simply did not have the capacity or equipment to keep up with demand. Small- and mid-sized livestock producers are struggling as a result. Before the pandemic, a typical producer scheduled locker dates 4-6 weeks in advance. Now, the wait time can be twelve to twenty four months. This means reservations must be made often before the animal is even born. 

With that in mind, last year I introduced LB324, which included the creation of the Independent Processors Assistance Program to provide grants for small- and mid-sized meat producers, and was passed by the Legislature and signed into law. There was no funding allocated for the program at that time and I have been working for a year on securing funds to help our struggling meat lockers. The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) provides funding for industries impacted by covid-19 and presents a funding opportunity.

The State of Nebraska is receiving over one billion dollars from ARPA. On January 25th, a hearing was held on LB1014, which is Governor Ricketts’ proposal for ARPA appropriations. I was honored and excited to see that almost ten million dollars was included in his proposal, introduced by Speaker Mike Hilgers, for the Independent Processors Assistance Program for small and medium processors. The full bill will be debated on the floor of the Legislature in the coming weeks and I am happy to have the support of the funding for meat processors from Nebraska’s agricultural groups, including the Center for Rural Affairs and the Nebraska Cattlemen. 

My bill LB755 formalizes this ARPA funding request, which I introduced on the first day of new bill introduction in early January. Technically, the bill appropriates $10 million to the Nebraska Department of Agriculture which would go into the Independent Processors Assistance Program for grants for small and medium meat processors. The hearing for this bill will be held on Wednesday, February 9th at 1:30pm in the Appropriations Committee and I look forward to hearing from meat processors and how this funding will help them. I believe this ten million dollars is an excellent use of ARPA funds to help the meat industry, my district and meat eaters everywhere.

Sen. Tom Brandt

District 32
Room 1528
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
(402) 471-2711
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