Nebraska Cattlemen analyzes 300 legislative bills

Feb 6, 2009
by WLJ
Nebraska Cattlemen analyzes 300 legislative bills

The Nebraska Cattlemen (NC) Legislative Committee met in Lincoln Jan. 21 and 22 and analyzed 309 bills it considered potentially pertinent to cattle producer interests. The committee made recommendations to the NC Board of Directors, which took positions on 207 bills—support 63, oppose 34, and monitor 110. The NC Board selected the priorities after its policy committee leadership and staff evaluated the legislative bills and legislative resolutions during the past three weeks.

“This is one of the most important meetings we hold,” NC President Todd Schroeder said. “In December, we established our policies with direct input from our members. Now, just six weeks later, we are able to evaluate the legislative bills based on the member-generated policy. Bills introduced pertain to most every aspect of our businesses, so setting policy and evaluating and influencing the legislative proposals is the most important work we do on behalf of our members.”

As part of its legislative activities, the cattlemen also hosted a dinner for state senators last week. The dinner was an opportunity to meet with the more than 30 senators to discuss some of the bills. “We think that a large majority of the members of the Legislature attended is testament to our straight-forward approach.

It is a strong indication they value our view point,” Schroeder said. Efforts by the Humane Society of the United States concern NC. California voters approved Proposition 2 in November, which mandates animal welfare guidelines based on housing size requirements. NC has been in contact with state Sens. Cap Dierks, Annette Dubas, Tom Carlson and others to address these concerns. Recently, Carlson and Dubas attended a national conference of state ag leaders and elected officials. Animal welfare was considered the number one issue confronting the future of animal livestock agriculture.

There are at least eight bills the legislature is considering that address domestic animal care. Some have the potential to extend to commercial livestock production. Sen. Amanda McGill introduced LB 83, which would expand judicial authority in domestic violence cases to include in a protection order to include domestic animals. She allowed NC to include new language in her bill to exclude commercial livestock.

Trichomoniasis, a costly cattle venereal disease, is addressed in LB 585. NC Cow/Calf Council Chair Paul Davis worked with many individuals and groups to develop a plan to improve oversight on this issue. Introduced by Dierks, LB 585 starts the process to benefit cow/calf production in Nebraska.

Property tax relief is a priority again this year. However, Gov. Heineman has stated he will oppose any proposed tax increase.

Still, a bill that could provide some tax relief is LB 309, introduced by NC member and freshman Sen. Ken Schliz of Ogallala. LB 309 would provide an incentive for established farmers or small business owners to transition their farm or business to a beginning business owner. The bill would provide for a capital gains tax exemption for a farmer or small business owner who sells his or her farm or business to a beginning farmer or beginning business owner. The NC Legislative Committee voted to make LB 309 a priority bill for staff.

NC recently presented testimony to the Legislature’s Natural Resources Committee in support of LB 56. The cattlemen drafted the proposal to change the Livestock Waste Management Act to correct an unfair provision in current state statute.

Under the current law, a violation of an environmental regulation by one livestock business could impact another livestock operation negatively.

An unintended consequence of the current law is that producers who may have ownership in more than one facility can be held accountable at their own operations for violations by others at another facility.

LB 56 changes the statute to bring the evaluation of non-compliant discharges to a facility-by-facility basis. Further changes will require Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality to hold a hearing on each event to determine if the circumstances rise to the level of a “strike.”

“We understand environmental regulations are necessary,” Schroeder said. “We also believe in protecting the environment, but pertinent laws need to be fair. We are simply trying to assure that the Livestock Waste Management Act is fair by addressing the unintended consequences of accounting fault to innocent parties and the potential for their loss of operating authority.” — WLJ