LINCOLN, NEB. – Nebraska Farm Bureau (NEFB) leaders stressed four key issues facing Nebraska farmers and ranchers, international trade, protecting livestock production, rural broadband, and continued estate tax reform, during an annual National Legislative Fly-In to the nation’s capital March 1-4.
“It’s important for us to travel to Washington, D.C. to express our views to Nebraska’s Congressional delegation in order to put a face and a voice to policy issues and have Nebraska farmers and ranchers tell their stories,” Steve Nelson, NEFB president said, March 6.
NEFB board members, who are all active farmers and ranchers, expressed gratitude to Nebraska’s delegation and the Trump administration for successfully passing the U.S.-Mexico- Canada Agreement (USMCA) and for securing deals with Japan and China. But with the farm economy still struggling, the need to expand agricultural markets continues.
“We urged our delegation and the Trump administration to work to expand market access for U.S. agriculture products in other areas of the world, including the European Union, the United Kingdom, India, and Africa, as exports will likely remain the main avenue to grow U.S. farm and ranch income. We spoke with a trade representative at the Kenya Embassy and talked about expanding our trading relationship including exporting more wheat, which would be a plus for western Nebraska farmers,” Nelson said.
Estate taxes was another discussion point during the fly-in. Nebraska farm and ranch families shouldn’t be forced to pay a substantial tax bill simply due to the death of a family member. The tax code reform package passed a few years ago temporarily doubled the federal estate tax exemption from $5.5 million to $11 million through 2025. This exemption increase however, loses its value if farmland isn’t fairly assessed for tax purposes.
“Sections of the tax code, which allow farmers and ranchers to reduce the land’s valuation to its productive rather than its development value, have not kept up with current trends in the price of farmland. We asked our delegation to permanently increase this valuation reduction, which would help farmers and ranchers avoid paying estate taxes which have the ability to cause financial harm on multigenerational farms and ranches,” Nelson said.
Animal agriculture continues to be in the crosshairs of radical environmentalists, and animal rights activists. Opponents of the livestock industry continue to push to eliminate meat from the diet of Americans and consumers. NEFB board members praised Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer’s introduction of the Real MEAT Act, which clarifies the definition of beef for labeling purposes and eliminates consumer confusion.
“The protection of Nebraska’s livestock sector has and will always be a priority for Nebraska Farm Bureau. This includes support for Sen. Fischer’s bill and support for the new science of genetically editing livestock and plants, which shows great promise for the future of agriculture,” Nelson said.
Nebraska Farm Bureau leaders also talked about the need to improve broadband coverage in rural Nebraska. Farm Bureau supports the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) efforts to roll out their Rural Digital Opportunity Fund and a concept introduced by Microsoft to open TV white space so that it can be utilized to provide expanded broadband coverage throughout the U.S.
“Farmers and ranchers rely on broadband access to manage and run successful businesses and will be left behind if they are without affordable high-speed internet,” Nelson said.
Those attending the Washington, D.C. Fly-In were:
Steve Nelson, president, Nebraska Farm Bureau-Kearney/Franklin County
Bill Baldwin, second vice president, Nebraska Farm Bureau-Scotts Bluff County
Dennis Beethe, southeast region, NEFB representative-Johnson County
David Grimes, south central region, NEFB representative-Kearney/Franklin County
Dave Nielsen, at-large, NEFB representative-Lancaster County
Marty Stewart, northeast region, NEFB representative-Dixon County