2020 Road Trip – What has NC been up to?
Last week NC staff traveled across the state for the annual Road Trip, talking with members and updating them on current happenings within Nebraska Cattlemen. If you were unable to attend the 2020 Road Trip we have written up a synopsis of what staff covered.
The staff at Nebraska Cattlemen strives to be known for our follow through. When COVID19 started impacting how you conducted business, NC leaders and staff developed a list of issues most commonly heard from members to serve as a guide to keep you conducting business as close to normal as possible.
Here’s an update on our on-going efforts to serve our members:
CFAP: Members asked, if there are COVID19 stimulus payments for agriculture – we need to ensure the beef industry is included. Any stimulus payment can and should be used to aid cattlemen weather the current extreme drain on whole farm/ranch equity. NC staff was successful in working with our members of congress to secure these payments. The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) utilizes $19 billion dollars to provide relief to those affected by coronavirus. The funds will be split between two delivery mechanisms:
- $16 billion in direct payments for farmers and ranchers combining existing funds available from the CCC and the $9.5 billion provided in the CARES Act – specifically ear marked for livestock and specialty crops.
- $3 billion in purchases of ag products including meat, dairy, and specialty crops to support families in need.
Recently, the application deadline was extended until September 11th. It was also announced that the remaining 20% of authorized payments will automatically be paid to applicants. Going forward, producers who apply for CFAP will receive 100% of their total payment – not to exceed the payment limit – when their applications are approved.
Risk Mitigation: The NC board directed staff to aggressively pursue modifications to the Livestock Revenue Protection (LRP) program. These modifications include increasing the program premium subsidy to make the program more affordable and modifying the program platform to make it more user friendly. To-date, modifications to the existing program consist of moving premium payments to the end of the endorsement period, putting it in line with other policies, and a modest increase the premium subsidy for coverage levels above 80 percent. We are not done! NC staff is seeking additional subsidy increases and a program awareness campaign to help folks better understand what the program can do for them.
Business Continuity: NC staff hit the phones hard to ensure the regulatory agencies necessary to keep business moving remained operational. Staff and leaders communicated daily with the highest level of elected officials on the state and federal level, as well as governmental agencies on the local, state and federal level to ensure that cattlemen’s business continuity was a top priority. These conversations focused on:
- USDA to ensure inspectors are not the limiting factor in keeping plants operational.
- Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to expand hours of service for those who deliver products directly related to food production.
- Nebraska Department of Agriculture to develop guidance for livestock markets and member production sales to ensure they can continue these necessary functions.
- Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy to adopt an enforcement discretion policy regarding routine compliance monitoring.
- Emergency Management and Clinical Operations team of Nebraska Medicine and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to issue guidance for implementing safety practices for critical infrastructure workers (processing plants) who may have had an exposure to coronavirus.
Cattle Markets: NC continues to explore ideas of how to incentivize more fed cattle to be purchased on a negotiated basis, thereby increasing true price discovery and transparency in the marketplace. Current steps towards the effort include amending existing NC policy to strengthen language by mandating packers increase the amount of negotiated cash or negotiated grid in their weekly slaughter purchases within specific delivery windows. NC led efforts with 19+ other states to adopt a similar policy at NCBA. We are not done! NC leaders and staff are communicating with USDA to flesh out policy recommendation ideas in the recent USDA cattle market investigation report and are working with our Congressional delegation to move forward with efforts once fleshed out.
AND FINALLY, …
The NC Board unanimously approved a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to identify and investigate any evidence of fraudulent business practices within the beef meatpacking industry. As you may remember, NC was the first to call for the DOJ investigation, which was followed by a coalition 21 of state affiliates with a similar request, coalition of 11 state Attorney’s General and finally the President to also open an investigation. We do know the DOJ is actively investigating, but we unfortunately do not – and may not – know who or what they are investigating.
Brand: LB 1165 introduced by Senator Stinner would do away with brand inspection and brand investigation entirely. Brand recording would be housed with the Department of Agriculture. When NC learned of this bill in November a task force was formed to consider what our policy should reflect going into what would be a battle. The Nebraska Brand Committee also went to work to write a bill that would be comprehensive and address the concerns of many stakeholders. When the Brand Committee bill, LB 1200, was introduced by Senator Brewer, it reflected many of the items in NC policy. While it is not a perfect bill it is a good compromise, so NC supported it. Neither bill moved forward. There will be a task force this fall to present findings to the Ag Committee and move forward with some solution next year. Senator Stinner will likely bring a bill similar to LB 1165 again.
RFID Tags: USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service released rules for comment recently. Comments can be made until October 5. This rule would require RFID tags to be the official form of identification for cattle and bison. They have found that too many errors and added handling of livestock has occurred with the metal clip tags. The rule will phase out the metal clips and by January 1, 2023 only RFID tags will be used. Any animal tagged prior to that with a metal clip will be ‘grandfathered in”. This does not change which animals must be identified. That rule has been in place for quite some time. It requires all cattle moving across state lines to be officially identified IF they are 18 months or older and sexually intact, or if they are used in rodeo or for exhibition (cattle shows) and all dairy cattle.
Traceability: The Nebraska Cattlemen Board of Directors voted to join US Cattle Trace. US Cattle Trace is a producer driven traceability program. In an effort to develop something for producers, by producers and to avoid a mandatory system from the government, Cattle Trace was a pilot project established in Kansas. The project was to see how well animals would be “sighted” as they moved from ranch, to markets, to feedlots and were harvested at a packer. Several other states also were added, and it has grown to US Cattle Trace. A 501 (c) 3 was formed so the data is held in private hands and cannot be subjected to a Freedom of Information Act request. The sole purpose is to have traceability for animal disease tracking. Anyone interested in enrolling their cattle can get more information at www.USCattleTrace.org.
2020 State Legislative Session: NC Board considered and took positions on 62 bills, with three designated as priorities for the 2020 session:
- LB 802, (Dan Hughes, Venango) relating to ownership of overlying land and how it relates to groundwater rights. (Indefinitely Postponed)
- LB 1200, (Tom Brewer, Gordon) modernize and adopt recommendations from the Nebraska Brand Committee. (Indefinitely Postponed)
- LB 974, (Revenue Committee) – property tax relief, which became LB 1106, and finally, LB 1107.
LB 1107: The Grand Compromise
- “Super 7” (Speaker Scheer, Senators Linehan, Lathrop, Briese, Stinner, McDonnell, and Kolterman) craft a grand compromise, including business incentives, UNMC, and property tax relief.
- Business Incentives
- Funds the Nebraska ImagiNE Act with a 10-year sunset
- Cap of $35 million in Years 1 and 2, also beginning in FY 20-21
- Cap of $100 million in Years 3 and 4.
- $150 million cap in Year 5
- After the 5th year, the cap will be equal to 3% of state net tax receipts.
- $300 million state match (beginning in five years) for the proposed $2.6 billion pandemic response center at the University of Nebraska Medical Center
LB 1107: Property Tax Relief
- Creates a new Property Tax Refundable Income Tax Credit based on the amount of K-12 taxes paid. This new tax credit would be frontloaded with $125 million and grow to $375 million annually after 5 years.
- If net receipts exceed forecast by 3.5% AND the Cash Reserve is below $500 million, then 50% of excess over 3.5% is certified to be added to the original $125 million.
- If net receipts exceed forecast by 3.5% AND the Cash Reserve is at or above $500 million, then 100% of excess over 3.5% is certified to be added to the original $125 million.
- Again, by year 5, the tax credit must reach $375 million annually.
- The credit is refundable, meaning a taxpayer will receive it regardless of whether income taxes are owed and applies to individuals, corporations, trusts, and LLCs.
- Beefs up the existing Property Tax Credit Fund by setting a minimum requirement of $275 million per year, plus any tax revenue generated from the gambling petition on the November ballot (if passed).
- Cumulatively with the existing PTCF, ag property owners would receive a reduction in property taxes of at least $311 million.
- In other words, LB 1107 reduces property taxes paid to schools by nearly 15% with a minimum of $650 million per year in relief.
- LB 1107 represents the largest investment by the state in property tax relief since 2007 when the PTCF was established.
- RELIEF, NOT REFORM.
- NC remains committed to long-term, systematic reform of Nebraska’s property tax structure, particularly on the over-reliance on agricultural property taxes to support K-12 public education.
- NC policy supports reducing ag land valuations, increasing state aid to unequalized school districts, and expanding the sales tax base to fund property tax relief, to name a few.
Interim Studies of Note
- LR 378 (Halloran) – Interim study to examine the Livestock Brand Act and the role and mission of the Nebraska Brand Committee.
- LR 380 (Brewer) – Interim study to examine the feasibility of creating a state meat inspection program
- LR 459 (Vargas) – Interim study to review the effects of COVID-19 on the safety of workers in Nebraska.
Additional handouts can be downloaded here. Questions on any of the above please contact:
Director of Government Affairs
V.P. of Member Services
V.P. of Legal & Government Affairs