Tax reform talks, which started last January with a state legislative proposal to put new sales taxes on the purchase of agriculture inputs, machinery and equipment, then later evolved into a broader discussion about providing property tax relief to Nebraska farm and ranch families, is the state’s top agriculture story of 2013, according to officials at the Nebraska Farm Bureau in releasing its annual list of the Top 5 Nebraska Agriculture Stories for the year.
“It didn’t matter the size of your operation, whether you raised livestock, or if you had dryland or irrigated crops, the reality is if you were a farmer, feeder, or rancher in Nebraska you would have been significantly impacted by the initial sales tax proposal,” said Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson. “In twelve months we’ve gone from talking about new taxes on Nebraska farm and ranch families to having a Legislative Tax Committee make recommendations highlighting the need to address the property tax burden that has been a major point of concern not just for farmers and ranchers, but for people all across our state,” said Nelson.
The Legislature’s Tax Modernization Committee unveiled recommendations for tax reform in early Dec. and the Legislature will reconvene in early Jan. to determine the future of tax relief for Nebraskans.
The other top stories, in no specific order, are:
- The impacts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on farm and ranch families.
“Health insurance out-of-pocket costs are typically much higher for those that are self-employed and have to buy coverage on their own as they don’t have the benefit of their employer paying for part of the coverage. Many farmers and ranchers fall into that category. These individuals are the ones who are seeing significantly higher premiums, deductibles and, in many cases, significantly higher overall costs associated with purchasing health care coverage due to implementation of the ACA and the mandates and rules associated with it,” said Nelson.
- The failure of Congress and the President to pass a farm bill.
“The fact that we were talking about passing a farm bill last year at this time and are still sitting here today without a bill in place is extremely disappointing. While there is a lot of talk about action on the farm bill after the first of the year, there is no guarantee and that continues to be troubling for Nebraska farmers awaiting some certainty about farm programs. Food security is national security. The farm bill is a key piece of that equation and it is disappointing that connection is not being made in Washington,” said Nelson.
- The state’s recovery from drought and statewide water management.
“The impacts of the 2012 drought are still being felt today. The drought conditions only further heightened the sensitivity to water management statewide for all water users. The result has been more conversations between those parties and Natural Resources Districts on how to manage to meet the needs for all water users through periods of water shortage. The drought has left a lasting impression on the need for sound water management in Nebraska.”
- The growing need for farmers and ranchers to be active in talking to the public about what happens on their operations and where food comes from.
“The ability of farmers and ranchers to produce more food with fewer resources is a great story, but it’s one people in agriculture need to be doing a better job of telling. The average American is now three generations removed from the farm and the gap in communication between farmers and the non-farming public is one we need to bridge and its important farmers and ranchers join in the broader public discussion about agriculture.”
Farm Bureau also identified what it believes will be key agriculture stories for 2014. Among those story predictions are a cooling of the broader agriculture economy, growth in precision technology on farms and greater discussion about U.S. trade policy and implications for greater movement of U.S. agriculture commodities into foreign markets.
The Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation is a grassroots, state-wide organization dedicated to supporting farm and ranch families and working for the benefit of all Nebraskans through a wide variety of educational, service and advocacy efforts. More than 56,000 families across Nebraska are Farm Bureau members, working together to achieve rural and urban prosperity as agriculture is a key fuel to Nebraska’s economy. For more information about Nebraska Farm Bureau and agriculture, visit nefb.org.