NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

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Sen. Tim Gragert

Sen. Tim Gragert

District 40

The content of these pages is developed and maintained by, and is the sole responsibility of, the individual senator's office and may not reflect the views of the Nebraska Legislature. Questions and comments about the content should be directed to the senator's office at tgragert@leg.ne.gov

On July 30, 2019, President Trump signed a bill July 30 that declares the United States has been in a state of war since Dec. 7, 1941.

“The American Legion sought the declaration as a way to honor approximately 1,600 U.S. servicemembers who were killed or wounded during previously undeclared periods of war.

“The LEGION Act (Let Everyone Get Involved In Opportunities for National Service Act) also opens the door for approximately 6 million veterans to access American Legion programs and benefits for which they previously had not been eligible.”

To read the full article, go to https://www.legion.org/membership/246557/legion-act-signed-law

For additional information, go to https://www.legion.org/membership/246558/11-things-you-need-know-about-legion-act

Lincoln, Neb., Nov. 25, 2019 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) in Nebraska announced that agriculture producers affected by natural disasters in 2018 and 2019 can apply for assistance through the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program-Plus (WHIP+). Nebraska FSA offices across the state are ready to accept applications.

“Nebraska farmers have had a challenging year,” said Nancy Johner, FSA State Executive Director in Nebraska. “WHIP+ may be able to assist those who have faced significant losses.”

WHIP+ Eligibility

WHIP+ is available to producers who have suffered eligible losses of certain crops, trees, bushes or vines in counties with a Presidential Disaster Declaration or a Secretarial Disaster Designation (primary counties only). A list of qualifying counties is available at farmers.gov/recover/whip-plus. Also, producers with losses in counties that did not receive a disaster declaration or designation may still apply for WHIP+ but must provide supporting documentation to establish that the crops were directly affected by a qualifying disaster event.

“In Nebraska, disaster losses must have been a result of floods, tornadoes, snowstorms or wildfires, and related conditions that occurred in 2018 or 2019,” said Johner.

Eligible crops include those for which federal crop insurance or Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) coverage is available, excluding crops intended for grazing. Because grazing and livestock losses are covered by other disaster recovery programs offered through FSA, those losses are not eligible for WHIP+.

Both insured and uninsured producers are eligible to apply for WHIP+, but all producers who receive WHIP+ payments will be required to purchase crop insurance or NAP coverage for the next two available, consecutive crop years after the crop year for which WHIP+ payments were paid.

WHIP+ Payments

WHIP+ payment amounts will be determined using a formula that includes several factors: expected value of the crop, how much of the crop was actually harvested, and crop insurance coverage and payments issued on those crops. At the time of sign-up, producers will be asked to provide verifiable and reliable production records.

Producers with WHIP+ payments for 2018 disasters will be eligible for 100 percent of their calculated value. Producers with WHIP+ payments for 2019 disasters will be limited to an initial 50 percent of their calculated value, with an opportunity to receive up to the remaining 50 percent after January 1, 2020, if sufficient funding remains.

WHIP+ Prevented Planting

FSA will provide prevented planting assistance to uninsured producers, NAP producers and producers who may have been prevented from planting an insured crop in the 2018 crop year and those 2019 crops that had a final planting date prior to January 1, 2019.

An application deadline has not yet been established for the WHIP+ program.

Additional Loss Coverage

The Milk Loss Program will provide payments to eligible dairy operations for milk that was dumped or removed without compensation from the commercial milk market because of a qualifying 2018 and 2019 natural disaster. In Nebraska, qualifying natural disasters for this program include floods, tornadoes, and snowstorms.

Applications for the Milk Loss Program are being accepted through Feb. 1, 2020.

Eligible producers can receive payments at a rate of 75 percent of the market value of the milk that was dumped. The payment formula takes into consideration normal milk marketings for the impacted dairy operation, fair market value of the milk, and promotion and hauling fees, among other factors.

Producers also are reminded of the availability of the On-Farm Storage Loss Program. This program assists those who suffered losses of harvested commodities, including hay, stored in on-farm structures in 2018 and 2019.

For More Information

Additional information about the WHIP+ Program, the Milk Loss Program, and the On-Farm Storage Loss Program can be found at farmers.gov/recover or by contacting your local USDA Service Center.

NOVEMBER 25, 2019 (LINCOLN, NEB.)  — The Nebraska State Patrol is urging motorists to be prepared for a winter storm that is projected to affect most of the state over the next two days.

The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Warning for Nebraska counties throughout western, central, and northern Nebraska, which will take affect at 9:00 p.m. Monday. Heavy snow and strong winds are expected to create hazardous travel conditions for significant portions of Interstate 80 and many other Nebraska roadways.

“Thanksgiving week is a major travel period and this strong winter storm has the potential to make travel difficult,” said Colonel John Bolduc, Superintendent of the Nebraska State Patrol. “Drivers should plan ahead and adjust plans accordingly to make sure they reach their destinations safely.”

Motorists are encouraged to stay up to date on conditions and plan ahead as travel may become difficult or impossible in some areas. Nebraska 511 is the best resource to monitor road conditions and closures. Motorists can also view real time conditions with the Nebraska Department of Transportation’s Plow Tracker system. NSP will provide updates on social media as well.

Troopers will be on the road to assist motorists who need help. Anyone in need of assistance can call *55 from a cell phone or 800-525-5555 to reach the NSP Highway Helpline. NSP also issues the following reminders for motorists traveling in extreme weather conditions:

·         Always wear your seat belt and never drive faster than conditions allow.

·         Blowing and drifting snow can reduce visibility. Travel only when necessary.

·         If you must travel, use well-traveled routes and give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination. Tell others your destination, your route, and when you will arrive.

·         If you become stranded while traveling, stay in your vehicle until help arrives. Have a red flag or bandana to signal for help. Freezing temperatures can be life threatening.

·         If your vehicle becomes stuck, run your motor sparingly and keep a window cracked to prevent buildup of carbon monoxide.

·         Maintain a winter weather survival kit in your vehicle.

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) provides many services to Nebraskans, including resources on mental health, child care, food assistance, Medicaid, and several other very important services. Below you will find a link to an interactive two-page document outlining these various DHHS services. In addition, you will find the latest information on the Olmstead Plan, Medicaid expansion, and DHHS’s 2019-20 Business Plan.

http://dhhs.ne.gov/Documents/How-DHHS-Serves-Nebraska.pdf

Nebraska farmers have until July 19th to apply for funding via a new pilot program to help repair ephemeral gullies on their fields. Ephemeral gullies are those areas in fields where small gullies appear after heavy rains. Nebraska is one of five states selected by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to take part in the pilot project which will provide $2 million to producers. Funds can be used by farmers to implement conservation practices such as cover crops, crop rotation, no-till, contour farming, buffer strips, terraces, waterways and others.

In 2017, USDA announced enforcement changes for Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Kansas related to highly-erodible land. This change targeted repair of ephemeral gully erosion. Since the passage of the 1985 Farm Bill, farmers have been required to control erosion on fields that are classified as highly erodible. Each spring, NRCS conducts compliance reviews on a random selection of highly erodible fields to determine if erosion has been adequately controlled. A non-compliance ruling can affect eligibility for farm program payments and federal crop insurance. If erosion control issues are identified during compliance reviews, farmers may be given variances, which provide time for farmers to make adjustments and install needed conservation practices.

Nebraska Farm Bureau continues to work with our counterparts in other states as well as the federal congressional delegation and NRCS staff to ensure implementation and enforcement of these changes are consistent with the law.

To sign up for the pilot program, or if you have questions, please contact your local NRCS office. https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/ne/contact/local/

LINCOLN, NEB, June 28, 2019 – USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is offering a special Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) sign-up for farmers in Nebraska who could not plant their crops because of flooded or wet fields. This sign-up provides technical and financial assistance to help farmers plant cover crops, an alternative to letting fields go fallow and uncovered. The deadline to apply is July 19, 2019. This is an extension of the June 21 sign up deadline announced in April.

Excessive moisture and flooding in 2019 have prevented or delayed planting on many farms across Nebraska. Many producers are unable to plant crops by a final planting date or have experienced significant delays in planting.

Fields that are saturated for an extended period can lose important soil organisms. Cover crop roots add organic matter and create pathways for air and water to move through the soil, which is key to restoring its health.

“Cover crops help farmers manage soil erosion, weeds, and pests and improve soil health,” said Craig Derickson, NRCS state conservationist in Nebraska. “They can also help soil health recover after a flood or a long period of remaining wet.”

Cover crops also improve soil’s physical and biological properties, supply nutrients, improve the availability of soil water, and break pest cycles along with various other benefits. Cover crops approved for funding through this sign up can potentially be hayed or grazed.

Work currently being done to maintain conservation structures as well as sediment removal, debris removal or grading and reshaping can be stabilized and protected from further erosion and damage by planting a cover crop.

Derickson said, “For Nebraska’s cropland that suffered significant damage, planting a cover crop can be a great way to help protect fields and restore productivity.”

For more information, or to apply for this special EQIP funding, contact your local NRCS office.

Other USDA Programs

Farmers with prevented planting coverage through USDA-administered crop insurance can hay, graze, or chop a cover crop.  USDA’s Risk Management Agency adjusted the final haying and grazing date from Nov. 1 to Sept. 1 to help farmers who were prevented from planting or delayed in planting due to flooding and excessive rainfall.

More Information

USDA offers a disaster assistance discovery tool that walks producers through five questions to help them identify personalized results of what USDA disaster assistance programs meet their needs. For more information on disaster assistance programs, contact your local USDA service center or farmers.gov/prevented-planting.

Update on the Highway 11 Bridge, South of Butte. Instead of only replacing damaged pavement as originally planned, recent evaluations determined that the entire bridge deck will have to be replaced. In the long-term, this will help ensure that more work will not have to be done in the upcoming years. The expected completion time of the Highway 11 Bridge has been pushed back to December 31, 2019.

Lincoln, Neb. — The Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) continues to take immediate action to restore and open roads and bridges damaged by catastrophic flooding.  NDOT will be holding several open house public meetings to share information about its flood recovery plan and Emergency Relief (ER) projects in response to the historic flooding in March 2019.  Nebraska residents and visitors are encouraged to attend the meeting located in the area of interest to them.

The open house meetings are scheduled as follows:

  • District 1 Flood Recovery Meeting: Tuesday, June 25, 2019 from 2:30-4:00 p.m. in the Kimmel Conference Room (5995 G Road, Nebraska City, NE 68410)
  • District 3 Flood Recovery Meeting: Wednesday, June 26, 2019 from 2:30-4:00 p.m. at the Lifelong Learning Center (601 E. Benjamin Avenue, Norfolk, NE 68701)
  • District 8 Flood Recovery Meeting: Thursday, June 27, 2019 from 9:30-11:00 a.m. at the Holt County Annex (128 N. 6th Street, O’Neill, NE 68763)
  • District 3 Flood Recovery Meeting: Thursday, June 27, 2019 from 2:30-4:00 p.m. in the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska Conference Room (2523 Woodbine Street, Niobrara, NE 68760)

Restoring safe and efficient travel of Nebraska’s Highways is NDOT’s top priority through temporary emergency relief and permanent solutions.  The open houses will feature informational displays and handouts including project details and timelines with NDOT representatives available to help answer questions about flood recovery efforts.  Members of the public are welcome to attend the meetings at any point during the posted times.

Information about NDOT’s flood recovery efforts is available and updated at  https://dot.nebraska.gov/news-media/nebraska-flood-2019.

LINCOLN – During the recent legislative session, Governor Pete Ricketts signed three bills to provide Nebraskans with additional property tax relief.

  • LB103 protects Nebraskans from automatic tax hikes when property values go up.
  • LB294, the mainline appropriations bill for 2019-2021, increases the Property Tax Credit Relief Fund by $51 million per year.
  • LB512 ensures that damages from natural disasters are taken into account when assessing property for tax purposes.

More information about each of these bills can be found below.

LB103: Ends Automatic Property Tax Hikes

The Governor signed LB103 to give Nebraskans greater insight and input into proposed property tax increases.  The bill requires taxing entities—like school districts, cities, and counties—to hold a public hearing and vote before they can raise property taxes.  Previously, as property valuations went up, property taxes would often soar higher and higher—even as tax rates remained the same.  This meant Nebraskans paid more in property taxes without ever debating or approving the increased amount.

With LB103 signed into law, Nebraskans will now receive public notice whenever a political subdivision (such as a school district, city, or county) wants to increase its property tax receipts.

“Nebraskans deserve to be fully informed, and to have a fair say, before they pay more in property taxes,” said Governor Ricketts. “This bill adds much-needed transparency and accountability to the property taxation process.”

The Legislature passed LB103 47-0-2, and it is already in effect as law.

LB294: Adds $51 Million Annually to the Property Tax Credit Relief Fund

LB294 includes the Governor’s recommendation to add $51 million annually to the Property Tax Credit Relief Fund in the 2019-21 budget.  This represents a 23% increase for a total of $275 million in property tax relief per year for Nebraskans.

“The key to delivering real, sustainable property tax relief is to control spending,” said Governor Ricketts.  “The State budget limits spending increases to less than 3%, while raising the Property Tax Credit Relief Fund by 23%.  Over the last five years, Senators and I have successfully worked together to nearly double the amount of direct relief to Nebraska’s farmers, ranchers, and homeowners.”

Taxpayers will see the additional relief when their property tax statements are sent out in December 2019.

LB512: Accounts for Disaster Damage to Property

LB512 provides property tax relief to Nebraskans who suffer damage to real property as a result of a natural disaster such as a flood, fire, or tornado.  Under normal circumstances, property is assessed for tax purposes on January 1 each year.  However, LB512 allows taxpayers to report property damage occurring after January 1 and before July 1 in order to obtain a revised assessment that takes the damage into account.  So long as the damage exceeds 20% of the assessed value for the current tax year, the property’s value will be lowered to reflect the damage.

“In March, Nebraskans experienced the most widespread natural disaster in state history,” said Governor Ricketts.  “LB 512 will help Nebraskans who are working to get back on their feet as the state rebuilds bigger and better than ever before.”

The Legislature passed LB512 without opposition, and it is now in effect.

Nebraskans who have experienced significant property damage due to a natural disaster in 2019 should fill out a Report of Destroyed Real Property.  This report, Form 425, is available by clicking here and must be completed by July 15, 2019.

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Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts and Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality Director Jim Macy commended a new agreement between U.S. EPA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to speed the availability of funding used to restore vital water infrastructure in times of disaster.

The federal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) establishes a framework for EPA-funded State Revolving Fund (SRF) programs to assist and collaborate with FEMA disaster assistance grant programs.  The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) has state revolving funds available for communities whose water systems were impacted by historic flooding.

“This agreement is important because it helps provide recovery funds more swiftly for our local infrastructure needs, such as the restoration of drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities impacted by the flood,” Gov. Ricketts said.  “It’s a great example of the ongoing federal, state and local cooperation which is helping Nebraska rebuild bigger and better after the most widespread natural disaster in our history.”

The MOU also ensures that communities that receive SRF loans will still be eligible for FEMA reimbursement.

“This MOU allows state agencies to better serve our communities impacted by federally declared disasters,” Macy said. “The clarity that this MOU provides will allow state SRF programs to offer 0% bridge loans so communities can deliver clean drinking water and effectively manage wastewater to help our communities recover quickly and return to normal operations. Reliable infrastructure is the key to community success.”

These SRF funds will act as an interim loan for communities that were impacted by the March floods until they receive reimbursement from FEMA. Then, those FEMA funds can be used to pay off the SRF loan.  When communities repay SRF loans, those funds go back into the SRF to sustain the program for future loans.

Jim Gulliford, Region 7 Administrator, also stated that the agreement is beneficial from a regional perspective.

“This comes as welcomed news for our Midwest states that have been hit hard by the spring 2019 floods,” Gulliford said. “The flexibility to use state revolving funds to restore vital water infrastructure, coupled with the opportunity to seek reimbursement from FEMA, is a win-win for our communities.”

The MOU and a fact sheet are available https://www.epa.gov/cwsrf/memorandum-understanding-between-environmental-protection-agency-and-department-homeland

Sen. Tim Gragert

District 40
Room #11th Floor
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2801
Email: tgragert@leg.ne.gov
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