Nebraska’s agricultural economy rebounding this year and the subsequent property tax relief tied to the economy are among the top agriculture stories of 2021, according to Nebraska Farm Bureau.
Also making the list is the move to expand broadband, calls for sweeping changes to the cattle markets, and Farm Bureau’s work to halt a proposal leaders said would devastate family farms.
“It’s no secret that we’ve seen progress in prices for most commodities over the past year and we know that when Nebraska agriculture does well, our state’s economy does well,” Nebraska Farm Bureau President Mark McHargue said in a news release. “Increased state revenue numbers mean property taxpayers who have been seeking relief will receive a big ‘win’ through the Nebraska Property Tax Incentive Act, getting back a tax credit equal to 25% of their property taxes paid to schools when they file their 2021 tax return.”
The Property Tax Incentive Act established in 2020, which grew from $115 million in the first year to $548 million this year, allows Nebraskans to claim an income tax credit based on the property taxes paid to K-12 schools. But, according to McHargue, the work on tax reform is not done and one of the most impactful things the Legislature can do in 2022 is to build upon that property tax relief.
In addition to increased funds for property tax relief, boosting e-connectivity is essential to modern agriculture, according to Farm Bureau. Nebraska Farm Bureau was instrumental in securing $40 million over the next two years for the expansion of broadband to unserved and underserved areas of the state.
“Agriculture and rural Nebraska will not reach its full potential without access to reliable, high-speed broadband. Much of the technology that allows farmers and ranchers to improve across the board, including minimizing our environmental footprint, relies on e-connectivity” McHargue said. “For many of our rural communities, access to health care and educational and business opportunities can only be gained through quality broadband and rural Nebraska can’t afford to be left behind.”
Federal proposals to increase taxes on Nebraska family farms, ranches and businesses also made the list of top issues. Discussions in Washington, D.C., this year centered on the spending bill, Build Back Better, which Nebraska Farm Bureau opposes as it would ramp up capital gains, estate and corporate taxes, including a proposal to eliminate “stepped-up basis” tax provisions.
“Preserving stepped-up basis is vital to ensure the next generation of farmers and ranchers can continue to feed, clothe, and fuel the world. Eliminating this important tool would subject many farm and ranch families to a new tax burden, forcing some to sell portions of their farm or ranch to pay the tax bill, further consolidating agriculture,” McHargue said.
Nebraska Farm Bureau expects the outcome of key elections, specifically the governor’s race, to top the list for the news cycle in 2022.
“It’s important for Nebraska’s next governor to understand the importance of agriculture to our state’s economy and the importance of keeping farmers and ranchers on the land. We know rural Nebraska’s voice is shrinking, which is why Nebraska Farm Bureau held a gubernatorial candidate forum in early December. We wanted to make sure our members had a chance to get to know the candidates so they can make informed decisions in this important election,” McHargue said.
Looking ahead at other issues in 2022, Nebraska Farm Bureau predicts growing Nebraska’s livestock sector will be a major news item for state and national levels.
“Nebraska’s economic development is directly tied to protecting and growing our state’s livestock sector. The cattle industry is the largest segment of that sector, highlighting the need to reform the way cattle are marketed in the United States. Which is why we continue to call on Congress to take up and pass Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer’s Cattle Market Transparency Act, which will provide needed reform to the cattle marketplace,” McHargue said.
With a series of cyberattacks on food processors and agriculture cooperatives making headlines in 2021, Nebraska Farm Bureau sees the issue of cybersecurity to continue to be front and center. According to McHargue, farmers and ranchers want to ensure that officials at the state and federal levels take necessary action to secure and protect data.
McHargue also pointed out the importance of international trade to the bottom line for Nebraska farmers and ranchers, calling on the Biden administration to focus efforts on trade policy in 2022.
“Every dollar in agricultural exports generates $1.28 in economic activities such as transportation, financing, warehousing, and production. It is critical the administration work to enact new trade agreements to create new market opportunities for Nebraska farm and ranch families,” McHargue said.