Although the 107th Legislature has adjourned, our work continues in the interim. In addition to working on legislation for next year, I am also participating in committee activities.
I currently serve in three committees: General Affairs, Agriculture and Natural Resources. On Thursday, July 21, the Agriculture Committee held a roundtable discussion at the Capitol under LR 400. At the request of the Nebraska agricultural leaders, LR 400 directed the committee to examine policies and mechanisms to support opportunities for beginning farmers.
During the meeting, we heard from the Beginning Farmers Board of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, and a local office of the United States Department of Agriculture Farm Services Agency.
Participants provided information about existing programs for beginning farmers, including the Nebraska Department of Agriculture’s “NextGen” program that provides a tax credit to land, equipment, and livestock owners who agree to lease their assets to beginning farmers and ranchers who qualify for the program.
The details of this program are available on the Nextgen website: https://nextgen.nebraska.gov/.
The discussion took me back in time when I was a beginning farmer. Even as a high school student, I wanted to find a way to go back to the farm and have a career in farming. The cost of entry was high then, and continues to increase for young farmers and ranchers today.
There are many highly skilled and highly motivated young people who simply lack the resources enter production agriculture on a full-time basis. Many take on second jobs to find a way to enter the industry and still provide for their families.
In my case, I took a job as a Vocational Agricultural Instructor for four years and then took a job as an ag loan officer. Although I never made it back to becoming a full-time farmer, I continue to get my hands dirty working our farm ground in the summer months in partnership with another ag family we got to be friends with many years ago.
I was fortunate to follow the path that I did, and I certainly don’t regret it, but as all ag producers know, once you catch the farming and ranching bug, you never get it out of your system.
My ongoing row-crop operation helps keep me dialed in to the challenges and opportunities available in agriculture. Like every industry, agriculture continues to adapt and change to meet the demands of the day and to become more efficient. It is important that any state programs we have to support agriculture keep up with the needs of those who are meant to benefit from them.
My primary feedback during the LR 400 roundtable was focused on how we can adapt existing programs to stay current with the constantly changing business structures and the challenges of meeting the program requirements.
One of the glaring challenges with many of these programs is that they were never indexed for inflation. Therefore, the net worth limitations are far too low to help those who need the help of these programs. This problem is even more glaring given the current rate of inflation.
The Agriculture Committee will meet again prior to the next Legislative session. I will continue to attend these meetings to gain further insight and offer opinions on how to improve ag programs.
I also plan to work with the other members of the committee next year to bring legislation to help improve these programs to make them more user friendly and effective.
In closing, I want to say that Julie and I had a great time attending the Lincoln County Fair in North Platte and the Perkins County Fair in Grant. We will be in Thedford for the Thomas County Fair and parade. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the fun we had in Stapleton Thursday night, July 21, attending a wine tasting at “Herbies” and steak meal at the Community Center with the Nebraska Press Association.
District 42 is blessed to have many wonderful communities supported by dedicated people who help make them great places to live.
If you have feedback on a beginning farmer program or have other ideas for legislation, please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-471-2729. I look forward to hearing about issues impacting you.
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