The State of Nebraska Agriculture

By Governor Pete Ricketts:

Over the past few weeks, I have joined Nebraska Cattlemen and Farm Bureau members at their annual conferences.  These events are always great opportunities to reflect on the year’s successes and challenges while also sharing ideas on how we can work together to continue to grow agriculture which accounts for one in four jobs in Nebraska.  While our state’s farmers and ranchers have faced challenges ranging from lower commodity prices to avian influenza this year, Nebraska agriculture continues to find new ways to grow.  Let’s review some of the events of the past year that positively impacted our state’s number one industry.

In January, I recommended dramatically increasing property tax relief provided through the Property Tax Credit Relief Fund.  Working with the Legislature, we were able to successfully deliver $408 million in property tax relief over the next two years – an over 45 percent increase over previous budgets.  While this is significant progress, there is more work to be done to improve Nebraska’s tax climate.

In March, I hosted the 27th Annual Governor’s Ag Conference in Kearney.  At the conference, we discussed the future of international trade, expansions of value-added agriculture, farm transitions to the next generation, and federal regulatory and policy issues impacting Nebraska farms and ranches.

In April, the Department of Agriculture and I led a delegation of Nebraska beef producers to New York City to visit four venues to promote Nebraska beef.  At these venues, we met with food journalists, nutritionists, and culinary experts to highlight Nebraska’s quality beef products and educate them on what makes Nebraska’s beef the best in the world.  Promotion and education are critical components of ensuring that today’s consumers understand how our Nebraska family farms operate.

This year, my administration also led international trade missions to the European Union and Asia.  In Europe, we visited the 2015 World Food Expo in Milan and Bologna to meet with key executive and organization representatives to tout Nebraska as an ideal location for food processing.  This fall, Lt. Governor Foley and Ag Director Greg Ibach led a delegation of ag producers on a trade mission to Japan, our state’s third largest trading partner.  Shortly following, a delegation traveled with me to Tokyo to meet with Marubeni, Itochu, and Kewpie, Japanese commodity and food processing companies that invest in Nebraska.  Additionally, Director Ibach traveled to Africa to explore other trade opportunities.

In June, Congress passed legislation authorizing Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), a policy which my administration supported because it opens up a path for additional opportunities for Nebraska to increase our exports and grow our economy.  TPA has helped move forward the successful conclusion of the negotiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).  TPP will lower trade tariffs imposed by countries such as Japan and Malaysia.

Throughout the year, we added eight counties to our Livestock Friendly County program.  In September, Hayes County became the 35th county in our state designated as “livestock friendly.”

In October, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit blocked President Obama’s Waters of the U.S. rule, also known as WOTUS.  This rule would have given the Environmental Protection Agency expansive new authority over Nebraska’s waterways that are the lifeblood of agriculture in our state.  Thanks to the leadership of Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson, our state did not have to comply with WOTUS this year, and we will continue to fight its implementation.

These are just a few of the highlights from the past several months.  As we enter 2016, my administration remains committed to helping our ag producers take advantage of new opportunities and confront whatever challenges lie ahead for agriculture in our state.  Working together, we can ensure that the industry continues to grow.  If you have ideas on how we can continue to grow agriculture in our state, I hope you will take a moment to share them with me by emailing pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov or calling 402-471-2244.