By Governor Dave Heineman
March 7, 2014
Dear Fellow Nebraskans:
On March 5 and 6, I hosted the 26th annual Governor’s Ag Conference in Kearney. This annual event always provides those in attendance with a wide variety of information about the issues, challenges and successes of our state’s number one industry in agriculture.
Farmers and ranchers shared with me that one of their biggest concerns is high property taxes. Homeowners and small businesses have also told me they are very unhappy about high property taxes.
That’s why I support increased funding for the Property Tax Credit Fund which provides direct property tax relief to homeowners, farmers, ranchers and business owners. The Legislature’s Revenue Committee recommended an additional $47 million be added to the Property Tax Credit Fund which I support.
The Legislature’s Appropriations Committee doesn’t support an additional $47 million for property tax relief for homeowners, farmers, ranchers and small businesses. I hope that they reconsider their decision and support the Revenue Committee recommendation.
The theme for this year’s conference was “Agriculture: Nebraska’s True Economic Development Driver.” An excellent lineup of speakers covered subjects such as livestock welfare, biofuels, the policy associated with digital agriculture data, and communicating the story of farming, ranching and food production to consumers.
In terms of telling the story of our agricultural industry, we heard from Randy Krotz the CEO of the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance. He shared with us some of the research his office has conducted in terms of consumer messaging. One of the highlights of his presentation was learning more about the new documentary Farmland, which will be debuting across the nation this spring. We also heard from Dr. Charles Hibberd, the dean and director of UNL Extension, about the design elements and educational experiences that will be found within the Nebraska Agriculture Experience that will be making its debut at the 2014 Nebraska State Fair.
Nebraska Agriculture Director Greg Ibach unveiled a special video, called “Nebraska Agriculture." It is an inspirational and informative piece that while meant to inform, also creates an emotional connection for the viewer. You can see it at the department’s YouTube page, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUSbOtfCRRs
We were privileged to hear from Kay Johnson Smith, the President and CEO of the Animal Agriculture Alliance. In today’s sound-bite driven world, the public is constantly bombarded with conflicting messages about livestock care. Ms. Johnson Smith relayed how important it is for our producers to communicate about their operations to the public and consumer.
Dr. Ronnie Green with the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln shared with conference goers the results of a study the University conducted on the potential opportunities for livestock expansion in Nebraska. While the beef sector has fared well over the past decade, there are a number of policy issues to be taken into consideration if we are to gain ground in the swine, dairy and poultry sectors.
Todd Becker, President, CEO and Director of Green Plains Renewable Energy, Inc. based out of Omaha, provided us with his analysis of the current and future policy considerations for biofuels. As the number two ethanol producing state in the nation, issues such as the renewable fuels standard are critical to ongoing development of next generation fuel sources.
During our luncheon we had the opportunity to be joined by U.S. Senator Mike Johanns via Skype. Sen. Johanns updated us on several key federal issues, including ongoing issues with government over regulation that continues to impact farmers and agribusinesses.
It was a great conference and I’m proud to represent agriculture through these important activities.