Friday, April 11, 2014

Johanns, Fischer to Federal Agencies: Halt Scheme to Regulate Livestock Emissions

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mike Johanns and Deb Fischer (R-Neb) and several of their Republican colleagues called on the Department of Agriculture (USDA), Department of Energy (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to stop pursuing regulations on livestock emissions. If enacted, the new regulations could cost medium-sized dairy farms up to $22,000 and medium-sized cattle farms up to $27,000 annually.
“Ag producers have a tremendous stock in maintaining a healthy environment—their livelihoods depend on it,” Johanns said. “These sorts of top-down regulations are not only absurd, but they create a tremendous burden for the industry. Agencies should work with Congress and the ag industry to develop manageable strategies to achieve our mutual goal of caring for our environment rather than trying to regulate them into oblivion.”
“Before these agencies start dispensing fresh reams of red tape, they first should consider the economic impact these new requirements will have on producers and their operations both in Nebraska and across the country,” Sen. Fischer said. “The agriculture community works hard year-round to protect our natural resources, as shown by the measurable progress in reducing methane emissions in previous years. More heavy-handed regulations will only create unnecessary burdens and increase costs for the livestock industry.”
On March 28, 2014, the President released his Climate Action Plan “Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions.” The proposal calls on the USDA, DOE, and EPA to develop a plan in the coming weeks that would reduce dairy sector methane greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 25 percent by 2020. If this plan leads to heavy-handed regulations or mandatory guidelines, farmers and ranchers would likely face a steep increase in production costs. Currently, EPA is prevented from regulating GHG emissions associated with livestock production through an annual appropriations rider that expires at the end of each fiscal year.
Below is the text of the letter, signed by Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), and David Vitter (R-La.):

April 10, 2014

The Honorable Tom Vilsack
US Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20010
The Honorable Ernest Moniz
US Department of Energy
100 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20585
The Honorable Gina McCarthy
US Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20460
Dear Secretary Vilsack, Secretary Moniz, and Administrator McCarthy:
We are writing today in regards to the president’s plan released on March 28, 2014, to reduce methane emissions.  In particular, we are concerned about potential actions against the agriculture community to regulate methane and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which could severely impact the livestock industry.

The president’s Climate Action Plan “Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions” targeted a number of industries for methane emission reductions, including agriculture.  Specifically the plan calls on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Department of Energy (DOE) to outline a “Biogas Roadmap” to reduce dairy sector GHG emissions by 25 percent by 2020 through voluntary strategies. 

Federal regulations of GHGs in the agriculture sector would have detrimental implications on livestock operations across the country.  In 2008, as part of its Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to regulate GHGs under the Clean Air Act, the EPA deliberated regulating agriculture-related emissions, which would have required farmers to purchase expensive permits.  It was estimated that these top-down regulations would have cost medium-sized dairy farms with 75 to 125 cows between $13,000 and $22,000 a year, and medium-sized cattle farms with 200 to 300 cows between $17,000 and $27,000.  We reject the notion that the EPA should, absent express authorization from Congress, seek to regulate the agriculture sector in this manner.

The agriculture community is committed to environmental stewardship, which is evidenced by the 11 percent reduction in agriculture-related methane emissions since 1990.  It is our hope that the EPA, USDA, and DOE will work with Congress and the agriculture industry to outline voluntary measures that can be taken to reduce emissions without imposing heavy-handed regulations on farms across America.  We respectfully request that you commit in writing to refrain from proposing new regulations, guidelines, or other mandatory requirements on methane or other GHGs from the agriculture industry.

Thank you for your consideration and attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

STRAIGHT FROM THE HORSES MOUTH

Duane A. Lienemann
UNL Extension Educator

     I talked fleetingly last week about the recently released rule proposal that could vastly expand the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority over farm and ranch operations. I think we need to take a closer look at this new rule this week and perhaps try to make it a little clearer. First of all, I do know that EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy says the proposed new Clean Water Act will not require farmers to obtain new permits and further suggests that farming practices that do not currently require permits will not need them when the rule becomes law. Their position is that the rule's only goal is to clarify, not to impose greater authority.  However a lot of people including several large farm organizations disagree with that “promise”!  Not only is their suspicion of the EPA based on past activities, but of current activities that seem to favor extreme environmentalists and language that comes out of the department that is not conducive to conventional farms.
     Farmers Push Back on New EPA Rule: According to studies conducted by their lawyers and policy experts they feel that this proposal could have far reaching implications that would allow the EPA to tell farmers and ranchers what they can and can't do on their own land! They believe that this rule could have serious consequences as this authority would give EPA the power to require farmers and ranchers to have a permit for things like applying manure, fertilizer or pesticides; possibly even planting seeds; and even activities as commonplace and essential to farming as building a fence - but more frightening, the ability to deny a permit for them to do these things on their own land. To many farm organizations and farmers that have read this rule, it seems that is more about EPA controlling land use and taking away private property rights! 
     EPA says its new rule will reduce uncertainty, and that much seems to be true: there isn’t much uncertainty if most every feature where water flows or stands after a rainfall is federally regulated. Under EPA’s proposed new rule, waters – even ditches – are regulated even if they are miles from the nearest ‘navigable’ waters. Indeed, so-called ‘waters’ are regulated even if they aren’t wet most of the time.  In reality - this rule would give them the ability to claim federal authority over land where water pools or flows only during precipitation events (i.e. areas that are not wetlands or do not normally flow unless it is raining/snow melt). Think of all the fields where after a rain or snow melt that either pools or water runs!
     Furthermore, under this proposed rule, farmers, ranchers and every other landowner across the countryside could face a tremendous new roadblock to ordinary land use activities as described above. This is not just about the paperwork of getting a permit to farm, or even about having farming practices regulated. The fact is there is no legal right to a Clean Water Act permit – if farming or ranching activities need a permit, EPA or the Army Corps of Engineers can deny that permit. That’s why Clean Water Act jurisdiction over farmlands really amounts to nothing less than federal veto power over a farmer’s ability to farm. In short, the feeling is that the EPA has moved ahead with a proposal that Congress and the Supreme Court have determined goes well beyond the agency's authority. That is why we all should be concerned.
     EPA accompanied its proposal with a new ‘interpretive rule’ claiming to clarify certain statutory exemptions for agricultural conservation practices, including activities as commonplace and essential to farming as I mentioned earlier -- building a fence. But these exemptions apply only to ‘dredge and fill’ permit requirements. They do not protect farmers from federal veto power over pest and weed control, fertilizer application, and other essential farming activities that may result in the addition of ‘pollutants’ to ‘navigable waters,’ – providing one views every ditch and wet spot across the landscape as ‘navigable waters.’ I have a tendency to agree with the opposition on this issue as this “clarification” is troubling to me.
     The public-comment period for the proposed rule begins as soon as it is posted in the federal register! The proposal will be open for public comment for 90 days. You can read the act at this site: http://www2.epa.gov/uswaters/definition-waters-united-states-under-clean-water-act  . I participated in a webinar this week that I thought gave a very good explanation on the concerns that are levied against this new proposed EPA rule. The webinar was recorded and archived and can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PhUMrHLmwo4  . It will be worth your time to watch and learn. Once again, be sure to study up on this and then use your rights as a citizen to give your comments towards this new rule!  
     Feds to Target Cows for Methane Reduction: While we are on the subject of the EPA, let’s look at something else that I found interesting if not laughable. This administration and the EPA is targeting the dairy and beef industry to reduce methane emissions in their operation, an issue that has long drawn criticism of the agriculture industry from environmentalists. Some of these methane emissions come from cow flatulence, exhaling and belching. That is what is comical to me. This comes despite falling methane emission levels across the economy since 1990.The White House has proposed cutting methane emissions from the dairy and beef industry by 25 percent by 2020. Although U.S. agriculture only accounts for a small amount of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, all domestic animal types, beef and dairy cattle were by far the largest emitters of methane, according (of course) to an EPA analysis charting greenhouse gas emissions in 2012. While it is true that cows and other animals produce methane through digestion, which ferments the food of animals, I think that this is just one more form of overreach and most likely a knee jerk reaction –to environmentalist pressure and to a new report put out by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which of course is really all about global warming! While this could lead to further problems, right now these proposals for curbing gas emitted by livestock strictly on voluntary measures that are largely already under way! But keep watch! Oh, do try to keep those cows from flatulating and belching!

The preceding information comes from the research and personal observations of the writer which may or may not reflect the views of UNL or UNL Extension. For more further information on these or other topics contact D. A. Lienemann, UNL Extension Educator for Webster County in Red Cloud, (402) 746-3417 or email to: dlienemann2@unl.edu or go to the website at: http://www.webster.unl.edu/home  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Lois Lerner Case Referred to Department of Justice

                            

Committee on Ways and Means turns over evidence of criminal acts

 
Congressman Adrian Smith (R-NE), along with colleagues on the Committee on Ways and Means, turned over evidence of criminal acts by former Internal Revenue Service (IRS) official Lois Lerner to the U.S. Department of Justice for possible prosecution.  Lerner previously served as Director of the Exempt Organizations Division which is being investigated for the targeting of political groups because of their beliefs.
“Abuse of the tax code for political purposes undermines our founding principles of free speech and equality under the law,” said Congressman Smith.  “The documents we are turning over today clearly indicate the inappropriate targeting of conservative organizations by the IRS.”
Congressman Smith is a member of the Committee on Ways and Means which has jurisdiction over tax policy, including the IRS, among other issues.  The Committee, along with the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has led the House investigation into political targeting by the IRS.
Click here to view a PDF copy of the Ways and Means letter to the Department of Justice.
All of the public documents in this case are now available online at: http://gop.gov/irs.

Monday, April 7, 2014

QUOTE OF THE DAY


"Be Prepared... the meaning of the motto is that a scout must prepare himself by previous thinking out and practicing how to act on any accident or emergency so that he is never taken by surprise."


~Baden Powell,  (1857-1941), British army officer, founder of the Boy Scouts

How to Save a Billion Lives

Sen. Mike Johanns

 

Norman Borlaug might not be a name many would put on a list of American icons, but a statue of this Iowa farmer now stands with sculptures of former presidents and other great American figures in the U.S. Capitol. Inscribed on it is the phrase, “The Man Who Saved a Billion Lives.”
To put this in perspective, the world’s population is 7 billion.
Borlaug earned this title for his lifetime achievements in improving ag efficiency in developing nations struggling to feed their people. He used science and technology to develop plant genetics that would thrive in local conditions and could be used by local farmers.  As a result hungry nations began outpacing the starvation that was too often at their door.
The significance of his discoveries is only going to become more important as the global population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050. That means limited resources must be stretched further to feed more people. The stakes are high and the implications are real. Fighting hunger is not only a matter of humanitarian aid, but also important for global stability.  Hungry people cannot advance their communities when their lives are spent looking for their next meal. Desperate nations spar with themselves over scarce necessities, and become easy targets for adversarial neighbors looking to capitalize on their weaknesses.
Our nation has been a leader in working to eradicate extreme hunger around the world and improve global food security. Our achievements on this front have been remarkable. As Secretary of Agriculture, I saw firsthand the benefits of our food aid programs. This investment is returned to us in the appreciation and affection felt by the recipients of these dollars. It’s an important diplomatic tool because it shows that Americans care about the most basic needs of people living in poverty around the world.
Even though we live in a landlocked state in the middle of the country, Nebraska farmers are always thinking globally.  And there’s a simple reason for that: beyond our borders the demand for our products is on the rise. Crops grown in Nebraska soil are used to keep people alive on the other side of the globe. As developing countries become wealthier, they demand more beef, and Nebraska leads the nation in its production.
Meeting these demands means expanding on Borlaug’s mission of increasing ag productivity. The Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska is just one example of how our state is prepared to meet this challenge. We’ve had to learn how to ensure agriculture thrives despite scarce water resources. The Institute is using that knowledge to find solutions for sustainable water management that benefits countries throughout the world.
We must continue to embrace science-based innovations like plant and animal genetics and conservation techniques that help a safe and healthy food supply meet a growing demand. I applaud the work of Nebraska’s ag community to explore new and creative ways to feed the world and help to save a billion lives.

Friday, April 4, 2014

STRAIGHT FROM THE HORSES MOUTH

Duane A. Lienemann
UNL Extension Educator

     Oh gosh, where do I start?  There are so many things going on right now it is hard to focus on one or two things, but I think I will give my best in trying to zero into a couple of things that caught my eyes the most. If you live in the rural area of Nebraska like I do, it is not unusual to see farmer-owned semi-trucks either setting in the yards, on the road or pulled into the local cooperative with a load of grain. In the past these were treated as commercial trucks and required special license. I think we know that most family farm and ranch operations in Nebraska, and the drivers of the farm-plated vehicles used in these operations, are by no means commercial trucking operations. Yet at the same time, they rely heavily upon trucking and hauling to maintain their farm business. Now because of a Nebraska Unicameral we now have signed into law LB 983 which facilitates changes that will give the appropriate degree of regulatory flexibility and relief for farm and ranch families.
     LB 983 and Farmer’s CDL Requirements: Gov. Dave Heineman signed LB 983 into law this past week after state lawmakers gave final approval to the measure. This bill is touted to give Nebraska farmers and ranchers regulatory relief in the area of farm truck regulations. For you that are not aware, this law includes provisions designed to bring Nebraska farm truck regulations in line with federal farm truck requirements. Basically the legislation exempts farm vehicle operators from having to obtain a commercial driver’s license and testing requirements. It also brings Nebraska law in line with federal rules it prevents unnecessary costs and regulations from hampering producers.  For you that need to read the law for yourself you can find it on the internet by simply going to: http://nebraskalegislature.gov/FloorDocs/103/PDF/Slip/LB983.pdf 
     One of the most notable changes allowed by the legislation is the exemption from CDL requirements for farm covered vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating less than 26,000 pounds, regardless of how far the farm vehicle travels. The changes also provide the CDL exemption to farm vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 26,000 pounds provided they operate within the state or a 150-mile radius from their farm operation. That should cover most producers that I know of. Farmers, family members and employees would be exempt from the CDL requirement under certain conditions per an amendment to the bill. There are still some things about this new law that I am not exactly clear on and perhaps this will all will be clarified in the near future as this I think this is big news to farmers, their families and their employees.
     One of the things that I wonder about in reading the bill is a provision that seems to point that test-takers would be required, for example, to physically perform a pre-trip inspection of commercial vehicles instead of completing that segment of the CDL exam on a computer.  If this is indeed still part of the equation that I don’t see this as a big deal because everybody should know how to do a pre-trip inspection anyway for their own and the public’s safety. I know that Iowa and some other states already require test-takers to perform a physical inspection. But yet I can find no explanation on this in subsequent explanations or news articles considering this. I also wonder about the language in the bill that says it will add “new license classifications, endorsements and restrictions.”  I think there are still some unanswered questions on this.
      I believe there has been some Federal legislation that has had some cause and effect pressure for Nebraska to get into compliance which some regulations that are on the books. Passage of Federal MAP-21 legislation in 2012 provided some exemptions for farm operated vehicles as it relates to Commercial Driver License (CDL) requirements, hours of service, medical testing and some other requirements. But up until now, Nebraska farmers and ranchers haven’t been able to take advantage of those changes. The passage of this bill allows family farms to do so as has been the case in other states. I thought this was strange that we didn’t have the same trucking regulations as other states so was curious as to why now? 
     From what I could ascertain it seems to come down to availability of Federal dollars. Without a change, the federal government was set to withhold $13.7 million from the Nebraska Highway Trust Fund for fiscal 2015 and $27.4 million for fiscal 2016 and each ensuing year as penalties for noncompliance with certain federal regulations regarding testing and issuance of commercial driver's licenses and learner's permits. Now to put that into perspective Federal funding accounts for 45 percent of highway construction in Nebraska. That is significant and I am sure had a bearing in the discussion of this bill.
     EPA and Our Land: I have been watching for several years the Clean Air and Water Act that is regulated by the EPA. Well this past week the EPA released a proposed rule that would vastly expand their authority over farm and ranch operations. Their proposal could have far reaching implications that would allow them to tell you what you can and can't do on your land! In short, EPA has moved ahead with a proposal that Congress and the Supreme Court have determined goes well beyond the agency's authority. This rule would give them the ability to claim federal authority over land where water pools or flows only during precipitation events (i.e. areas that are not wetlands or do not normally flow unless it is raining/snow melt). The rule could have serious consequences as this authority would give EPA the power to require you to have a permit for things like applying manure, fertilizer or pesticides; possibly even planting seeds; and even activities as commonplace and essential to farming as building a fence - but more frightening, the ability to deny a permit for you to do these things on your land. To many farm organizations this rule is about EPA controlling land use and taking away private property rights! You might read some analysis at http://www.fb.org/ and  http://www.beefusa.org/  or get the take from many other farm organizations. The public-comment period for the proposed rule begins as soon as it is posted in the federal register! Be sure to study up on this and then use your rights as a citizen to give your comments towards this new rule!

The preceding information comes from the research and personal observations of the writer which may or may not reflect the views of UNL or UNL Extension. For more further information on these or other topics contact D. A. Lienemann, UNL Extension Educator for Webster County in Red Cloud, (402) 746-3417 or email to: dlienemann2@unl.edu or go to the website at: http://www.webster.unl.edu/home 

Governor's Column

Dave Heineman

Dear Fellow Nebraskans:
One of the best ways to grow Nebraska is to provide job opportunities for our young people so they remain in Nebraska. Our task is to prepare our sons and daughters to compete in today’s knowledge-based, technology-driven, global, free-market economy.
More than ever before, jobs require higher reading and math skills. One of the most valuable tools that we can give to today’s students is the opportunity to earn a two-year associate’s degree or a four-year college degree. If we want to keep Nebraska’s economy strong, we need to encourage high school and middle school students to pursue a higher education.
Nebraska students and families are fortunate that our state has made the accessibility of an affordable, quality education a priority. Nebraskans have many outstanding colleges and universities to attend.
Recently, I had the honor of addressing over 200 middle school, high school, and community agency professionals, at EducationQuest Foundation’s College Access Symposium. These dedicated professionals help our young people prepare for success in school, college and a future career.
Through the hard work of these school and agency professionals, and the efforts of Nebraska’s education-related entities, we have made great strides in education. Our high school graduation rate has risen from 87.6 percent to 88.5 percent – the second best in America. Our college-going rate has improved to 69.5 percent, placing Nebraska seventh in the nation in the number of students who continue on to college after high school.
While we can be proud of our top 10 ranking, there is still room to improve. In order to meet the workforce demands of the near future, we will need even more college-educated workers in Nebraska.
EducationQuest Foundation is a Nebraska-based nonprofit organization that helps make college possible for many of Nebraska’s students. Their locations in Kearney, Lincoln and Omaha provide free college planning services for thousands of Nebraskans each year. They also share their services statewide by conducting financial aid programs, college planning programs and college fairs.
Each year, EducationQuest Foundation awards $1.4 million in need-based scholarship funds to Nebraska’s nonprofit colleges. Their Reaching Your Potential scholarship program has helped hundreds of students overcome obstacles to attend college. 
Since 2006, 51 high schools have shared over $2.5 million through the College Access Grants program. They have helped these schools develop programs that are helping more students get on the path to college.
I encourage you to learn more about EducationQuest and find out how they can help you fulfill your educational goals. You can learn about their free services at www.EducationQuest.org.

- Dave Heineman
    Governor of Nebraska
 

Good Paying Jobs

Sen. Deb Fischer


Whenever I speak with Nebraskans looking for work, they always tell me one thing: they want a good-paying job so they can provide for themselves and for their families. Rather than holding back economic progress with an outdated tax code, burdensome regulations, and government-driven uncertainty, Congress should pass policies that actually help the unemployed obtain good-paying jobs.

The Senate recently considered legislation to extend unemployment insurance benefits for the long-term unemployed. This extension would make retroactive payments from January 2014 through next month – a total period of five months.

I believe that unemployment insurance provides a needed safety net for Americans struggling to find work in a very tough job market. However, the best way to truly help the unemployed is to pass policies that create jobs and get people back to work.

Extending unemployment benefits without addressing job creation is simply putting a band aid on the symptoms. If we’re going to actually tackle the underlying problem of unemployment, I believe we need to pass measures that encourage employers to hire new workers, grow existing businesses, and start new companies.

I filed an amendment to the Senate unemployment insurance extension bill that would promote entrepreneurship and strengthen job-training services for the unemployed. My amendment would require the Department of Labor to establish a set of standards that in turn would allow job training centers to provide entrepreneurial services. Currently job training centers do not provide such training and there are thousands of individuals nationwide who would benefit from understanding how to start their own businesses. The job training centers would then be able to count those who create their own business as a “successful employment outcome.”

The funding each job-training center receives is based on its ability to actually help the unemployed find work. Giving centers the ability to measure the success of entrepreneurial training would encourage them to offer these valuable services – services that are already authorized under current law. Additionally, it would give more men and women the ability to not only find a job, but to also pursue their passions by opening their own businesses.

This is just one of the many ideas my colleagues and I have offered in the Senate. There are 3.8 million Americans who have been unemployed for six months or longer. These Americans deserve a Congress that makes it easier, not harder, to create jobs.

Unfortunately, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid once again shut down the amendment process, preventing a vote on my straightforward, non-controversial amendment. Despite this frustration with the party in power, I remain committed to working with all of my fellow senators, Republican and Democrat, to find ways we can make it easier and less expensive for employers to hire new workers.

Another great way we can get Americans back to work is the Hire More Heroes Act, a bill introduced by Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) that I am proud to cosponsor. This bill removes a burdensome requirement of Obamacare that is discouraging small businesses from hiring our nation’s veterans. The law’s costly employer mandate requires all businesses with more than 50 full-time equivalent employees to provide health insurance to their employees or pay a fee. The legislation I’m cosponsoring exempts veterans who already have health insurance through the Department of Veteran Affairs or TRICARE from being counted towards this requirement.  This exemption will incentivize employers to hire these highly qualified men and women who have dutifully served our country and possess valuable skills and training to offer employers in Nebraska and across the country.

I will continue to work to pass policies that help unemployed men and women find good-paying jobs, and as always, I welcome your suggestions and ideas to help get our economy moving again. Thank you for participating in the democratic process, and I look forward to visiting with you again next week.

Tax Day Quickly Approaching

Rep. Adrian Smith

        

Tax Day – April 15 – is quickly approaching and many Americans are still working to complete and file their 2013 tax returns.  This year, I have heard from many Nebraskans not only about the complexity of the tax code, but also about concerns of being targeted for an audit, delay, or additional questioning because of political beliefs.
Individuals are concerned because they know the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) targeted political organizations with additional scrutiny, inappropriate questions, and delays when applying for tax-exempt status.  As confirmed in the IRS Inspector General’s report, additional scrutiny was disproportionately applied to conservative organizations.
While my colleagues and I on the Ways and Means Committee continue to thoroughly investigate the agency’s conduct, this issue is not resolved.  We have held numerous hearings and continue to review thousands of documents.  All of the public documents in this case are now available online at: http://gop.gov/irs.
If you feel you have been unfairly treated or targeted by the IRS, or are having problems with this or any other federal agency, I encourage you to contact my office.  As your representative in Washington, I am committed to helping you navigate the bureaucracy, cut through the red tape, and resolve problems.  Each case is different, but in dealing with the IRS my office may be able to connect you with a taxpayer advocate, or contact the IRS to request more information or an update on your problem.
Many of the problems Nebraskans have with the IRS are a direct result of the immense complexity of the tax code – more than 10,000 pages of ever-changing rules.  The code is so outdated and complicated nearly 90 percent of Americans choose to pay someone else to do their taxes or use commercial software.  Tax compliance costs the American economy more than 6 billion hours and costs $168 billion annually in addition to actually paying the tax burden.
Simplifying the code would ease this burden on taxpayers, make our tax structure fairer, and be a significant boost to our economy.  After years of work, dozens of hearings, and a series of bipartisan working groups, Ways and Means Chairman recently released a comprehensive draft tax reform proposal.  This draft is intended to generate discussion and feedback and I hope you will take the time to review it at http://tax.house.gov

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Gov. Heineman Approves More Than $400 Million in Tax Relief for Nebraskans

 

 
(Lincoln, Neb.) , Gov. Dave Heineman announced that Nebraska taxpayers will receive more than $412 million in tax relief over the next five years. He signed several tax relief bills into law at a news conference where he noted the relief as responsible, meaningful and significant.
“I am pleased that Nebraska taxpayers will be receiving more than $412 million in tax relief, which is responsible, meaningful and significant tax relief,” said Gov. Heineman.
Governor Heineman has clearly stated that the priority for this legislative session was providing responsible and meaningful tax relief. In his State of the State address, Gov. Heineman demonstrated how Nebraska could accomplish tax relief between $370 and $500 million citing state financial reports holding the line on state spending, utilizing a portion of the record high state cash reserve fund, and citing Nebraska’s growing economy.
Bills signed into law that affect tax relief include:
LB 987 will index Nebraska’s individual income tax brackets for inflation, as well as exempt portions of social security and veteran retirement. Specifically, the bill will exempt social security income for taxpayers with an adjusted gross income of $58,000 or less for married persons filing jointly, and $43,000 or less for all others. This bill also allows a veteran to make a one-time election, within two years after separation from military service, to exclude portions of military retirement benefits. The exclusion may be to either exclude 40 percent of the military retirement benefit income for seven consecutive years or to exclude 15 percent of the military retirement benefit for all taxable years after the person turns 67.
LB 96 eliminates sales tax on the sale, lease, rental or storage of repair or replacement parts for agricultural machinery and equipment that are used in commercial agriculture.
On March 29, Gov. Heineman signed LB 905 into law.
LB 905 increases the Property Tax Credit Program by $25 million on an annual basis, in addition to the current $115 million ongoing funding. In 2007, the Governor worked with the Legislature to create the Property Tax Credit Program to offer property tax relief in Nebraska. The amount contributed has stayed flat over the last few years while statewide property values have increased.
LB 986 will expand Nebraska’s homestead exemption program so that more Nebraskans could qualify. This bill increases amounts of household income limits. For a 100 percent exemption from property tax, single filers can earn up to $26,900. As household income increases up to a maximum of $39,500, the exemption percentage is phased-down incrementally. For a 100 percent exemption, married filers can earn up to $31,600. As household income increases up to a maximum of $46,900, this exemption percentage is phased-down incrementally. This bill also creates a new eligibility category under the homestead exemption program to include certain individuals with developmental disabilities.
LB 1087 will expand eligibility for the current property tax homestead exemption to include a 100 percent property tax exemption for honorably discharged veterans. To qualify, veterans must be drawing compensation for a 100 percent service-connected disability from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, beginning in 2015. This bill also gives a 100 percent exemption to unremarried widows or widowers of honorably discharged veterans who died as a result of a service-connected disability, as well as to unremarried widows or widowers of servicemen and servicewomen whose death on active duty was service connected.
Additionally, Gov. Heineman outlined an additional bill that just reached his desk Monday that he plans to sign.
LB 867 will exempt sales and use taxes on purchases made by historic automobile museums, and would exempt sales and use tax on the sale, lease or rental of gold or silver bullion and U.S. postage charges. The bill would exempt non-profit corporations that make charitable donations of land from the documentary stamp tax and accelerate the sports arena sales tax turnback payments to the Ralston arena. It would also exempt retail sales of compressed natural gas that is used for motor vehicle fuel.
 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Fischer Cosponsors Hire More Heros Act

     

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) today announced she is cosponsoring legislation introduced by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) to encourage small businesses to hire veterans. The Hire More Heroes Act (S.2190) provides incentives for small businesses by exempting veterans who already have health insurance through the Department of Veterans Affairs or TRICARE from being counted towards ObamaCare’s employer mandate requirements. The mandate requires all businesses with more than 50 full-time equivalents to provide health insurance to their employees or pay a fee.

“Our nation’s veterans have valuable skills and training to offer employers in Nebraska and across the country,” said Fischer. “The Hire More Heroes Act fosters job opportunities for those who have dutifully served our country by removing one of the burdensome requirements of ObamaCare preventing small businesses from hiring. This legislation provides a reprieve for job creators hurting under ObamaCare while also helping to ease the transition of our men and women in uniform back to civilian life, and I’m proud to support it.”
 

Identical legislation, H.R. 3474, overwhelmingly passed the House last month with a vote of 406-1.
 
The Hire More Heroes Act is supported by the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States (EANGUS), the only military service association representing the interests of every enlisted soldier and airmen in the Army and Air National Guard, and the Retired Enlisted Association, a Congressionally-charted veterans’ service organization and the largest association in the nation of enlisted retirees and veterans from all branches of the Armed Forces.

Johanns Sponsors Bill to Encourage Hiring of Veterans, Reduce Obamacare Burden for Job Creators

 

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb) cosponsored legislation, the Hire More Heroes Act, to exempt veterans receiving health care through TRICARE or the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) from being counted toward a company’s 50-full-time worker equivalent requirement under Obamacare. Once that threshold is met, the costly employer mandate in the health care law applies.
“This is a win-win for both job creators and veterans,” Johanns said. “It provides employers with some relief from a costly requirement they’ve told me personally has prevented them from growing.  At the same time, it encourages the employment of highly-trained, highly-skilled veterans.  Our stagnant economy and job-seeking military heroes will both benefit from this commonsense legislation.”
The legislation previously passed the House of Representatives, 406-1.

Dona Lee Metzgar Krueger March 30 1925 - March 30 2014

Dona Lee Metzgar Krueger was born in Hastings, Neb., on March 30, 1925, to Hazel McCleery Metzgar and Don Metzgar. Dona's great great-grandfather, Marion Fouts,  was one of the first settlers in Adams County Nebraska.
 Dona spent her childhood in Hastings and graduated from Hastings High school in 1943.  She attended Kearney College on a regents scholarship and taught at a country school in Adams County. 
Dona met Paul Krueger On October 11, 1942, just three months before he left to serve in World War II. For the next three years, as Paul served in the South Pacific, the two corresponded through letter writing. Paul credits Dona's letters with providing him the hope and encouragement he needed to get through the war without a leave home.  The two were engaged while Paul was stationed on the island of Saipan.  Paul returned on December 24, 1945, and the two were married in Hastings on January 17, 1945. 

Together they operated a farm near Bladen, Nebraska and raised their four children.
 Dona was an avid gardener, amazing cook, and prolific quilter, making scores of quilts by hand for her children and grandchildren and great grandchildren.  Above all Dona loved and adored her family and they loved and adored her in return.
Dona passed away on her 89th birthday,  March 30, 2014 in Blue Hill, Nebraska.
  Dona is survived by her husband of 68 years, Paul F. Krueger, of Blue Hill; children, Pamela Kinney (Dan) of Council Bluffs, Iowa, Nancy Curry (Bill, deceased) of blue Hill, Nebraska, Peggy Sloey (Dan) of Greeley, Colorado, and Paul D. Krueger  (Barb) of Blue Hill, Nebraska; Grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Daniel Kinney (Jennifer) and children, page and Riley of Fort Dodge, Iowa; Bill Curry (Tiffany) and children Luke, Katelyn and Mia of Shelby, Nebraska;  Megan Taylor (Bob) and Collin of Gretna, Nebraska; Laura Thornburg (Brock) and children Jack and Lauren of Omaha, Nebraska; Leigh Bloomquist (Matt) and Wade of Wausa, Nebraska; Sean Sloey (Cara) and Stockton of Greeley, Colorado; Taylor Sloey of Lafayette, La.; Sam Krueger of Blue Hill, Nebraska (fiancée Megan); and Jared and Mitch Krueger of Bladen, Nebraska.
Also surviving are her brother, Don Metzgar and family Stroudsburg, Penn; brothers and sisters in law, Lucille Krueger, Red Cloud; Les and Betty Krueger, Hastings; Mariel Krueger, Wendel and Janice Krueger, Blue Hill; Glen and Kay Krueger, Hastings; Bill and Elaine Beezley, Red cloud; Nancy Krueger, Hastings; Jim and Marilyn Krueger, Norfolk' and numerous nieces and nephews.
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Services are Thursday, April 3, 2014, 10:30 a.m. at Trinity Lutheran Church in Blue Hill, Nebraska, with Rev. Joshua Lowe officiating.
Burial will be at Trinity Lutheran Cemetery in Blue Hill, Nebraska.
 Visitation will be Wednesday, April 2, 2014, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Merten-Butler Mortuary in Blue Hill, Nebraska.
Memorials can be directed to the church.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Gov. Heineman Signs Online Voter Registration Bill into Law

 

 
(Lincoln, Neb.) Today, Gov. Dave Heineman signed LB 661 into law which will allow Nebraskans to register to vote or update their registrations online. This bill was introduced on behalf of the Secretary of State John Gale, who oversees the state’s elections.
“I’m pleased to sign online voter registration into law,” said Gov. Heineman. “This bill reflects Secretary Gale’s continuing efforts to modernize the process of voter registration through technology. It is important to keep the voting process accessible to Nebraskans, and having this option available through the Secretary of State’s website is a positive step.”
“Nebraska’s new online registration will be unique since we are the first state to combine these processes,” said Secretary Gale. “Online registration has been our goal for some years, but it took the combined efforts of our Governor and the Department of Motor Vehicles to work out the technology challenges, and the support of several key senators to move the bill to passage. I appreciate the efforts of Rhonda Lahm, Director of the Department of Motor Vehicles, who was instrumental in helping to combine and streamline our systems.”
LB 661 provides an additional opportunity for citizens of Nebraska to register to vote while increasing the accuracy and enhancing the maintenance of the voter registration database. The registrations would incorporate copies of signatures provided by the Department of Motor Vehicles for driver’s licenses or state identification cards.
Nebraska joins 17 other states that have implemented online voter registration.
The adaptation of the online system is expected to be completed by 2017.

Gov. Heineman Vetoes $65 Million in Budget

 

Calls for additional property tax relief with taxpayer dollars vetoed from budget
(Lincoln, Neb.)  -  Gov. Dave Heineman highlighted many areas of agreement in state funding priorities. He also issued his line-item vetoes in LB 130, LB 905 and LB 906, which constitute the Legislature’s adjustments to the mid-biennium budget for fiscal years 2013-2015. Gov. Heineman noted that by vetoing millions of dollars of new spending, those taxpayer funds could instead be used for property tax relief for Nebraska’s citizens, including homeowners, farmers, ranchers and small business owners.
“For the past year, Nebraskans have been very clear in telling the Legislature’s Tax Modernization Committee that their biggest concern is high property taxes, and I believe that providing property tax relief is a more important priority than funding fountains at the State Capitol,” said Gov. Heineman. “For more than 80 years, the capitol building has existed without fountains and we don’t need them now. Providing an additional $25 million in property tax relief for Nebraska homeowners, farmers, ranchers and small business owners can be accomplished in the remaining days of the Legislature if State Senators make it a priority.”
In total, the Governor issued approximately $65 million of line-item vetoes to trim the budget that was passed by the Legislature. General fund reductions accounted for $26 million of the total vetoes.
Gov. Heineman noted that developing a budget is a challenging process and that he appreciates and understands the related challenges. While the Governor and the Legislature agreed on many funding priorities, there were areas of respectful disagreement where the Governor used his line-item veto to make spending reductions.
“I want to thank and acknowledge the Appropriations Committee and the Legislature for prioritizing water sustainability funding, Game and Parks deferred maintenance funding, developmental disability waiting list funding and early childhood education funding.”
Governor Heineman approved the following funding:
  • $10.5 million for the Natural Resources Development Fund.
  • $19.9 million for the Water Sustainability Fund in fiscal year 15.
  • $19.8 million for the Water Sustainability Fund in fiscal year 16 and 17.
  • $10 million for the Game and Parks Maintenance Fund, including the funding for Ponca State Park and Arbor Lodge at Nebraska City.
  • $4.7 million for the Developmental Disability Aid Program and
  • $3.2 million for the Early Childhood program.

Governor Heineman also indicated that he will sign LB 814 into law next week that will provide Game and Parks an additional $3 million annually for deferred maintenance.
Key vetoes issued include the following:
  • $7.4 million in general funds provided to the Nebraska Supreme Court for a Juvenile Services Project Contingency Program. This appropriation represents an additional 37.4 percent over the total amount of general funds already provided to the Courts in the current biennium budget. This funding is unnecessary. An analysis of the year-to-date spending through Feb. 28, 2014, the Supreme Court’s Office of Probation – Community Corrections Program reveals the Supreme Court is estimated to underspend current general fund appropriations by approximately $8 million by June 30, 2014.
 $2.5 million in Nebraska Capital Construction Funds for the construction of four courtyard fountains. The State Capitol was completed in 1932. The decision was made at that time not to install fountains because it was not a priority use of taxpayer money. The governor noted that the citizens of Nebraska have managed well without fountains at the capitol building for more than 80 years.
  • $11.7 million in Nebraska Capital Construction Funds to renovate the heating, ventilation and air condition system in the State Capitol. The Capitol Commission did not request funding for this project during the mid-biennium budget process. Additionally, LB 905 only provides funding of $11.7 million of the $77.8 million currently estimated total cost of this project. That would leave the balance of $66.1 million to future Legislatures to resolve in their budget process. It was noted that a long-term project of such magnitude should be presented and considered during a regular biennium budget process alongside other capital improvement projects, with full consideration and a commitment to recognize and fund the entire cost identified for the project, if that is deemed a priority at that time.

  • $10 million cash fund appropriation and the $10 million general fund transfer provided to the Department of Economic Development for the Job Training Program. No increase was requested nor is it needed by the Department of Economic Development for immediate program needs.
  • $1.5 million in general funds and $1.5 million in federal funds for the proposed state ward permanency pilot project. A request to establish a state ward permanency pilot project was withdrawn by the Department of Health and Human Services because the request was more appropriate to address during a regular biennium budget process. After the veto, adequate funding remains to serve state wards.

  • $5.4 million for increased provider rates. The Developmental Disability Aid program received significant increases when the biennium budget was developed during the 2013 Legislative Session, including $5.9 million for provider rates and $42 million for a new rate methodology for paying providers. The new rate methodology was adopted during the 2013 Session to pay providers based upon actual costs of providing services in the state with provisions for future adjustments for inflation.  The additional new funding is premature before the new methodology is implemented.
  • $10 million in general funds redirected from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) contingency fund program to the Behavioral Health Aid program at the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. The $10 million represents a portion of the anticipated savings to the state behavioral health program. These savings should be captured as intended to help offset other ACA related costs to the state.
 
  • $1.1 million from the Water Sustainability Fund that was earmarked for the Omaha Sewer Separation project. This project is a local project and should be paid with local funds.
  • $250,000 from the Department of Education for a specific vendor identified by name, potentially violating Article III, Section 18 of the Nebraska Constitution. This is described as unconstitutional and is an inappropriate expenditure.

The additional line-item vetoes are outlined in the LB 130, LB 905 and LB 906 veto messages.

April Birthdays

April 2 Bertha Lamborn (RIP).Terri Golter, Ron Lampman
April 3 Mark Kumke , Dick Schmidt, Jr.
April 4 Christa Alber , Terry Jordening, Lori Toepher
April 4 Jan Wells, Nina Colburn, Shalene Medina
April 4 Wanda Wright
April 5 Patty Uden
April 6 Jordan Mack
April 7 Pat Kort
April 8 Penny Witte
April 9 Matthew Schwab
April 10 Kristen Ostdiek
April 10 Jean Heinrich (RIP)
April 11 Clair Duval , Deb VanBoening, Jesse Alber, 
April 12 Rodney E Hartman (RIP)
April 13 Ruth Elaine Goodrich
April 14, Jennifer Gaede
April 15 Jill Coffey , Rodney Buss, Ken Skarin
April 15 Wayne Strasberg
April 18 Judy Grandstaff
April 23 Tami Kort
April 23 James W. Mackin (RIP)
April 24 Peggy Meyer  Colleen Karmazin  Kristin Rose Kohmetscher
April 25 Cody Bland
April 26 Lamira Karsting,  Marah Leigh Jensen
April 28 Charlene Feeley
April 29 Larry Gianokas, Marvin Harrifeld,   Gary Stertz
April 29 Kevin Toepher,  Beverly A. Meyer
April 30  Dick Schmidt, Sr

Jean Heinrich April 10, - March 27, 2014

Blue Hill resident Jean Heinrich, 88, died Thursday, March 27, 2014, at her home in Blue Hill. Rosary will be Sunday, March 30, 2014, 7 p.m. at Merten-Butler Mortuary Chapel, Blue Hill, Nebraska.
Mass of Christian Burial will be Monday, March 31, 2014, 10:30 a.m. at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Blue Hill, Nebraska, with the Very Rev. James Schrader officiating.
 Burial will be at the Blue Hill Catholic Cemetery. Memorials can be directed to the Holy Trinity Altar Society.
Visitation will be Sunday, March 30, 2014, from 1-8 p.m. at Merten-Butler Mortuary.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Religious Freedom Must Be Protected

The United States was founded in part on the idea of religious freedom.  It is no coincidence the First Amendment to the Constitution ensures the ‘free exercise’ of religion.  However, two cases argued before the Supreme Court this week will test whether this basic right truly extends to all Americans, or if the federal government now has the power to force individuals to violate the tenants of their faith.
The cases of Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius will decide the constitutionality of a provision of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, which forces employers to provide their employees government approved insurance plans or pay a tax.  Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties are contesting this provision because they object on religious grounds to some of the coverage the law requires them to provide such as abortion-inducing drugs.
These minimum coverage requirements are enforced with a significant penalty which actually encourages employers to offer no insurance at all rather than offer insurance without provisions they find objectionable.  The tax on employers for violating this provision of the law is $100 per day, per employee, or $36,500 per year.  For Hobby Lobby this tax would amount to $475 million per year.  If the company offered no insurance coverage at all to their employees, they would pay a $26 million tax; a massive fine for simply having a conscience objection.
While many Americans disagree on the morality of certain drugs and procedures, we should all be able to agree no one should be forced by the federal government to do something they find objectionable.  After considerable controversy and public attention, the department of Health and Human Services agreed to give non-profit religious employers such as Catholic churches and schools, an exemption from these provisions.  The Department inexplicably did not extend the same consideration to private employers with strongly held beliefs such as Hobby Lobby.
All Americans are entitled to freedom of religion and to rights of conscience - even if they are a private sector employer.  This principle is why I signed an amicus brief in support of the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties cases against Obamacare.  I am also a cosponsor of the Rights of Conscience Act which would repeal this mandate.  It is only fair to give private sector employers the same flexibility to ensure religious freedom, as the Administration has already given to non-profit employers.
One-size-fits-all, government mandated health care plans are also bad business.  The insurance market works better when employers and individuals are given the choice to purchase plans which match their unique needs, budgets, and beliefs.  The market should be driven by options, not government mandates.
These cases also further demonstrate the problems which arise from the ever-expanding role of the federal government.  As government grows more powerful and tries to regulate more aspects of our economy and daily lives, conflicts will inevitably arise between personal freedom and the interests of government.  The founders of our nation understood this concept, and intentionally set up our system of government to protect the God-given freedoms of individuals.    
Conscience rights are among the most basic American ideals, and must be preserved.  I am hopeful the Supreme Court will strike down this mandate and uphold religious freedom for all Americans.   

Friday, March 28, 2014

STRAIGHT FROM THE HORSES MOUTH



Duane A. Lienemann
UNL Extension Educator
       Well, that was no surprise, a chance for rain and we get drizzle. I think we need to hold on to our britches as we could have a three-peat and I am not talking basketball.  The March Madness I am talking about unfortunately is how dry it is and the future does not look much brighter for the rest of the spring. I do hope that I am just being a worrywart, but it isn’t looking good. I think that our producers need to hope for the best but prepare for the worse.  
     I think this is particularly true with our livestock producers as our pastures and hay lands are certainly showing the effects of the last couple of years of drought.  If things don’t change, we may have to look at waiting a few weeks before turning out the cow/calf pairs and perhaps once again limit the number of cows grazing. If this is the case I suggest that our landlords, if renting out their pasture, may want to consider going from a per acre charge for rent on pasture to instead to a cow/calf pair charge per month and accept the detriments that come from effects of drought.  Do your renter and especially your pasture a favor and adjust your rent accordingly, as we are all in this thing together and stewardship should be our first concern. 
     While it is hard to give up that extra cash, it is harder and more expensive to bring back a pasture that is not taken care of properly.  I do know that there will be a lot of pressure on pasture owners to rent their grass and will likely be offered some good sums of money to do so, but stop and think it over, consider the long term health of your pasture and use some good common sense. This is not the time for the greedy emotion to kick in. Our pastures are already in strained condition.
     Speaking of rental rates, I know that a lot of folks have been patiently waiting for the UNL Extension Land Value and Rental Rates guide that comes out about this time every year. Well the preliminary survey has hit the web, so let’s take a look at it this week. If you have an internet connection you can find this most often requested document by simply going to: http://agecon.unl.edu/cornhuskereconomics   and look for the “Nebraska Farmland Values Remain Steady” document. I want to remind everyone that this is just a preliminary survey and the actual final results from the survey will be published in early June 2014 and will be available electronically via the Nebraska Farm Real Estate website which is located at: http://agecon.unl.edu/realestate.html  which also has some very useful stuff on farm real estate.
     It shows that the average statewide value of farmland last year rose 5% in Nebraska, a considerably lower rate than in recent years. Land values and cash rental rates from Feb. 1, 2013, to Feb. 1, 2014, are used to determine the data that appears in the Nebraska Farm Real Estate Market survey and is used to form the basis for this preliminary guide. Farmland values in recent years have increased sharply. The overall increase of 25%, shown in the February 2013 report followed increases of 22 and 32% in the two previous years, leaving the 2013 all-land value more than double the value in early 2010. However, that has leveled off this past year or at the very least has slowed considerably. It looks like the spike has ended and leveled off.
     This year, the largest increase by land class actually occurred for non-tillable grazing land, at 7% statewide. Non-tillable grazing land includes pasture and rangeland that does not have the current potential to be converted into cropland for small grain or row crop production. That is not a surprise to me as we have lost a lot this type of land in the last few years and there just isn’t as much out there for the competition for grazing or hay. With the current high prices of beef we could see a real spike in this area especially if we have to take drastic measures to stave off the effects of a possible third year of drought. 
     Record high cash and futures livestock prices  translated into strong increases for non-tillable grazing land seen throughout the state for rangeland and particularly with strong increases as high as 32% in the South District where I am located, much higher than the state average. What is amazing to me is that the rental rate/ acre of pasture however went down from last year.  One could only surmise it has to be because landlords are limiting the number of cow/calf pairs on their rangeland and are working with the renters in pricing their lease. I have actually heard that pasture and cow-calf pair rental rates have increased significantly this year due to higher beef cattle prices, the lingering effects of the drought and the conversion of some marginal land to crop production, however this survey does not reflect this for the South District. If you go by rumors and the increase in the going rates for grazing corn stalks, I would be surprised if this may be low and I am anticipating that this set of data may change by June.
     Increases in dryland cropland values also varied across the state depending upon the location and potential for irrigation. You would not expect as much considering the value of water and irrigation. But it still followed the trend of slight increase or leveling off. Observed changes in the value of gravity irrigated and center pivot irrigated cropland ranged from 2% decreases to almost 20% increases depending on location with an increase of only 4% for each of the two irrigation land classes. Lower anticipated grain prices in 2014 have led to lower average cash rental rates for dryland, gravity irrigated and center pivot irrigated cropland as profit margins begin to tighten and with the outlook for prices, this may continue to occur. 
     Whatever the situation, the landlord and tenant must communicate with each other so appropriate factors are taken into consideration and a fair rate is established. Average cash rental rates for the South District for center-pivot irrigated cropland is at $296/acre. Average dryland cash rental rates were estimated at $105/acre and gravity irrigated cropland at $225/acre. Pasture cash rental rates were estimated at $35/acre and/or $39 per Cow/Calf pair per month. . I do want to point out that we all should remember that this survey is not meant to be a “one-size fits all” instrument. These are merely guidelines and a starting place. There are a lot of factors that need to be considered and they should be. It all comes down to common sense!
   The preceding information comes from the research and personal observations of the writer which may or may not reflect the views of UNL or UNL Extension. For more further information on these or other topics contact D. A. Lienemann, UNL Extension Educator for Webster County in Red Cloud, (402) 746-3417 or email to: dlienemann2@unl.edu or go to the website at: http://www.webster.unl.edu/home 

Johanns Sponsors Bill Requiring EPA to Report Job Losses Caused by Rules

 

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) sponsored legislation to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from finalizing any major regulation until the agency analyzes the economic impact of its current regulations, which is currently required under Section 321(a) of the Clean Air Act.
          
"This Administration’s regulatory onslaught is making it harder for Americans to find good jobs,” Johanns said. “EPA has refused to disclose the true costs of their agenda. It’s time they own up to the real impact they are having on our nation’s struggling economy.
“We all want a clean environment, but we also want Americans to be able to find work. This legislation does nothing more than attempt to strike a common-sense balance between the two.”

The EPA Employment Impact Analysis Act cites a number of examples where the National Economic Research Associates (NERA) reported that EPA regulations would result in thousands of job losses. Below are several examples:
• Utility MACT rule (77 Fed. Reg. 9301): NERA's whole economy analysis found that the rule would have a negative impact on the income of workers in an amount equivalent to 180,000 to 215,000 lost jobs in 2014, and 50,000 to 85,000 lost jobs each year thereafter.
• Cross State Air Pollution rule (76 Fed. Reg. 48208): NERA 's whole economy analysis found that the rule would result in the elimination of a total of 34,000 jobs from 2013 to 2037.
• Boiler MACT rule (76 Fed. Reg. 15608): NERA's whole economy analysis found that the rule would result in the elimination of 28,000 jobs per year from 2013 to 2037.

The legislation was authored by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and currently has 28 cosponsors in addition to Johanns. Inhofe and Johanns introduced similar legislation last Congress requiring EPA, in conjunction with other relevant federal departments and agencies, to determine the total economic impact on agriculture and other economic sectors of several major rules EPA was preparing to issue.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Legislative Newsletter Senator Tom Carlson

Senator Tom Carlson
District 38
 
As I have said before, the legislature is at the “heavy lifting” point now that we have nine days until we adjourn for another year. The “off- year” state budget, which adjusts the biennial budget passed during the long session, was advanced to the governor with important funding. The governor has five days to approve or reject individual funding requests on a line item basis.
The nearly $8 billion budget includes $25 million additional to the Property Tax Credit Fund and $31 million for one time money and ongoing funding for water initiatives, including research. I am pleased that my colleagues agreed with me that water is our most important resource and we must fund water sustainability.
To that end, the editorial page editor of the Lincoln Journal Star interviewed me this week and wrote a complimentary top story in his paper the next day. He focused on LB 1098, my priority bill for this session. That bill would restructure the Natural Resources Commission by expanding it to 27 members. The governor would appoint the 11 additional members. The new commission would recommend which projects would be funded by the Water Sustainability Fund to ensure all Nebraskans benefit from state tax dollars. LB 1098 will be debated next week.
Yesterday the legislature debated two prison reform bills aimed at easing perpetual overcrowding in our state institutions. Both advanced to Select File. LB 907 would provide more intensive supervised release to help inmates earn part of the cost of their sentence.
We also must better prepare inmates for their release to substantially reduce recidivism. Every prisoner should be exposed to an influence that could help develop a ray of hope in their lives. Without help, a person has nothing to head them in a positive direction.
LB 999 was also approved on first round debate. This legislation will help inmates successfully cope with and prepare for eventual release by providing treatment for mental health issues and drug and alcohol addictions. I believe that violent offenders should serve out their full prison terms. However, as with non-violent offenders, an opportunity for hope should be available for every inmate. Churches and other charitable groups need to step up and offer help in this regard. Our corrections system must be open for their assistance.
On Final Reading this morning were several bills aimed at tax reductions for Nebraskans. LB 96 will exempt repair or replacement parts for agricultural machinery and equipment from sales and use tax. Nebraska is one of eight states still imposing this tax.
LB 986e will change homestead exemption income limitations and provide an exemption for individuals with developmental disabilities. That bill will become effective upon the governor’s signature.
LB 987 will adjust individual income tax brackets for inflation and exempt social security and military retirement benefits from income taxation in certain circumstances such as maximum total income. These bills were the result of the work done by the Tax Modernization Committee that met last summer and fall.
 

 


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Johanns: Latest Delay Proof Obamacare Is Unworkable

 

“The only parts of Obamacare that aren't written in disappearing ink are the crippling Medicare cuts, new taxes, cancellation notices and costly mandates burdening hard-working families.”
WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.)  said the latest Obamacare delay is yet another broken promise by the Administration and further proof that this law should be repealed.
“It seems the only parts of Obamacare that aren't written in disappearing ink are the crippling Medicare cuts, new taxes, cancellation notices and costly mandates burdening hard-working families,” Johanns said. “The Administration said the website glitches were fixed but now they’re the excuse for yet another delay, despite the President’s previous emphatic claim that he has no authority to change the deadline.
“Americans’ heads are spinning trying to sort through the broken promises and changing provisions. It used to be that only Congress could change laws, but now the President apparently believes his white-out is an acceptable replacement. It’s outrageous.”
The Administration announced they would extend the law’s March 31st deadline until mid-April, citing heavy website volume as the reason Americans may be unable to sign up for a plan on the federal exchange by the end of March. This delay counters previous statements by Administration officials that they “don't actually have the statutory authority to extend the open enrollment period in 2014" and that "there is no delay beyond March 31.”

Monday, March 24, 2014

Elsie Karmazin July 29, 1925 to March 20, 2014


Hastings resident Elsie Ann Karmazin, 88, died Thursday, March 20, 2014, at Blue Hill Care Center in Blue Hill, Nebraska.
 Rosary will be Sunday, March 23, 2014, at 7 p.m. at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Lawrence. Mass of Christian Burial will be Monday at March 24, 2014, at 10:30 a.m. at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Lawrence with Father Thomas Bush and Monsignor Ivan Vap officiating.
 Burial will be at Sacred Heart Cemetery in Lawrence. Memorials may be given to Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Lawrence, Nebraska. Visitation will be Sunday, March 23, 2014, from 3-9 p.m. at Lawrence Visitation Chapel, Lawrence.
Elsie Ann was born July 29, 1925 in Spring Ranch, Clay County, Nebraska to John and Lillian (Wolfe) Lipovsky.  She was baptized at St. Martin Loucky Catholic Church.  She attended Prairie Rose Country school Dist #4 in Clay county and then Lawrence High School graduating in 1942.
After graduation she worked in Lincoln at Western electric Company until her marriage. 
Elsie married Robert Karmazin on August 28, 1947 at St. Martin Loucky Catholic Church. 
The couple made their home in the country 4 miles east and 1 1/2 miles north of Lawrence, Nebraska.
Elsie worked as a bookkeeper at Ron's Pharmacy in Blue Hill from 1979 to 2001 for her son Ron.   She was active in Sacred Heart Alter Society home and school organization ,  Lawrence Legion Auxiliary and Lawrence extension club and Lockland Country Club.  She enjoyed being a 4 H leader. 
She had a special fondness for her vegetable, fruit and flower gardens over the years.
Bob and Elsie enjoyed traveling and spent many winters in California where they enjoyed golfing and visiting friends.  In 1981 they moved from the country to their new home in Lawrence, Nebraska.
 In 2009 with Elsie's health failing they moved to College View Assisted Living in Hastings where Elsie made her home until the last month.
Elsie was preceded in death by her parents and a son, Michael R. Karmazin.
She is survived by her husband Robert J. Karmazin, of Hastings. 
Her children, spouses and families include, Michael R. Karmazin (deceased) Michelle and TJ Chamberlain of CA, Tyler and Alexa, Kimberly Karmazin of CA. David Karmazin of Florida, Kathleen and David Vacek of Lander, Wyoming, William Vacek of  Lander Wyoming, Kenneth and Katie Vacek of Ankeny, Iowa, Audrey, Isabelle and Michael, Ronald J. and Colleen Karmazin of Blue Hill, Eric and Rachel Karmazin of Omaha, Luci and Maddox, Jodi Karmazin of Lincoln, Emma and Hunter Meyers, Andrew and Emma Karmazin of Omaha, Nebraska, Bennett; Sandra S. and John Woodward of Rochester, MN; Trudy Woodward of Omaha, Ne, Robert and Allison Woodward of Lincoln, Ne.   Brother and spouse Ed and Lorene Lipovsky of Fairfield, Ne, Sisters and spouse, Marie Sakore, of Grand Island, Ne and Dorthey and Don Buescher of Lawrence
.

Massachusetts Should Not Determine Nebraska's Presidential Vote

Gov. Dave Heineman

 


Dear Fellow Nebraskans:
I want to make you aware of Legislative Bill 1058 that would dramatically change the presidential election procedure in Nebraska. The bill proposes that our state enter into a compact agreement with other states and the combined total popular vote of the nation would require Nebraska to cast its five electoral votes for the presidential candidate who won the combined vote, even if he or she didn’t win in Nebraska.
Let me briefly explain this bill. Known as the so-called “National Popular Vote” legislation, the bill may sound good because of the name and even present an initial face value appeal. However, if enacted in our state, this bill could essentially nullify the voice of the Nebraska voters in presidential elections. Put simply, we do not want our voice invalidated when electing the next President of the United States.
Secretary of State John Gale, our state’s chief election officer, and I are strongly opposed to State Senator Tyson Larson’s LB 1058. Nebraskans want their electoral votes to count, and that won’t occur under the proposed bill. Instead, our votes for President could be mandated to go to the candidate that Nebraska voters did not elect.
For example, in the 2012 presidential election, Nebraskans overwhelmingly voted for Governor Mitt Romney for President. Under the proposed electoral scheme set forth in LB 1058, our state would have contractually been forced to cast our five electoral votes for President Barack Obama instead of Mitt Romney. That would not have been right or fair to our citizens.
This would have impacted other presidential elections in Nebraska, as well. In 1976, Nebraska would have been required to cast its electoral votes for Governor Jimmy Carter instead of President Gerald Ford. That same scenario would have happened again in the 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2008 presidential elections.
I have always been proud of Nebraska voters who take their right and responsibility to vote in national elections very seriously. I believe that once Nebraskans are faced with the facts on how this legislation would be detrimental to our voice as a state, they will see that it is a bad idea.
Currently, nine states and the District of Columbia have already agreed to enter into this Interstate Compact. Those states are Massachusetts, California, Illinois, Washington, Maryland, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Jersey and Hawaii. We do not want these states to determine how Nebraska casts its votes.
The United States of America is built upon the 50 states and the belief in those individual states’ rights. In America, especially in election laws, we respect the right of every state to decide what policies are best for their citizens.
Nebraskans know what’s best for Nebraska. Massachusetts residents know what’s best for their state. But, Massachusetts should not determine what’s best for Nebraska and we shouldn’t decide what’s best for that state, either. LB 1058 is a bad idea and should be rejected by the Nebraska Legislature.

- Dave Heineman

Saturday, March 22, 2014

2014 NATIONAL AGRICULTURE WEEK & AGRICULTURE DAY


     Frankly, it's easy to take agriculture for granted in America. Our food is readily accessible and safe. For this, we're unbelievably fortunate . . . but that doesn't mean we don't have an obligation to recognize how it's made possible. National Ag Day falls on March 24th during National Ag Week which is March 20-26, 2014. The theme for this year is appropriately - "Agriculture: 365 Sunrises and 7 Billion Mouths to Feed".”  Farms both big and small have a proud tradition of nourishing generations. That is why people like me are encouraging consumers from all walks of life to learn more about farmers’ roles in providing nourishment for our families, our animals and our soil. 
     One out of three Nebraskans derive their income from working directly with agriculture. Cash receipts from farm marketing contributed over $24 billion to Nebraska’s economy in 2012 which translated into a record net farm income of over $7.5 billion and 6.2 percent of the U.S. total. Nebraska has a vibrant export market and we need to remember that every dollar in agricultural exports generates $1.29 in economic activities such as transportation, financing, warehousing, and production. Nebraska’s $7.3 billion in agricultural exports in 2012 translate into $9.4 billion in additional economic activity. You can find where Nebraska ranks nationally in ag commodities by going to: www.nda.nebraska.gov/facts.pdf 
     Nebraska’s top five agricultural exports in 2012 were soybeans, corn, beef and veal, feeds and fodder, and grain products. In 2013, Nebraska ranked second in ethanol production capacity, with 23 operating plants having production capacity of 1.96 billion gallons. Over 40% of the State’s 2012 corn crop was utilized in ethanol production. This all was done on Nebraska’s 49,969 farms and ranches that have an average operation size of 907 acres. Nebraska’s average net income per farm was $119,002 during the 2008-2012 period with a considerable amount of income and property taxes that went to each of our communities. Obviously that means a lot to our state in terms of how important the agricultural industry is to our economy and to every segment of our society that depends upon our largest industry.
     It behooves us to honor National Agriculture Day and join in with thousands of these other agriculturalists to tell the true story of American agriculture and remind citizens that agriculture is a part of all of us. Our very existence may depend upon when and how we tell our story. It is important - particularly on a day like National Ag Day – for all of us to show our gratitude to the many men and women who make agriculture possible. Our nation's first President, George Washington, wrote, “I know of no pursuit in which more real and important services can be rendered to any country than by improving its agriculture”.  Farmers and ranchers are those responsible for supplying a safe and abundant food supply.
     We know that food and fiber doesn't just arrive at the grocery or clothing store . . . or magically appear on our dinner table, or in our closet. There's an entire industry dedicated to providing plentiful and safe food for consumption . . . as well as a wide range of comfortable, fashionable clothing choices. We rely on agriculture for the very necessities of life. Did you know American agriculture not only provides you food and clothing, but is working harder than ever to meet the needs of Americans, and others all round the world? Did you know that agriculture products are America's #1 export? And of great importance with new technology farmers are more environmentally friendly than ever before. American agriculture is not just producing more food it’s producing higher quality goods. And it's important to remember that American agriculture is not just doing it, but doing it better and more effectively! 
     An under-rated less than 2 percent of our population involved in modern agriculture produces enough food for all 6.3 billion souls worldwide. With today’s successful commercial agriculture, one U.S. farmer produces enough food to feed 155 people and is the leading producer of more than 50 foods of importance to diets throughout the world. In 1940, the average U.S. farmer fed only 19 people. Quite simply, American agriculture is doing more with less - and doing it better. Farm families are overcoming increasing challenges to provide this food. They face increasing pressures on farm and ranch land, including excess regulations and paperwork requirements, tax uncertainty, high input costs, limited water, emerging pests and plant and animal diseases. You can find more at: www.agweb.com/farmersfeedingtheworld/ 
     As the world population soars, there is an even greater demand for the food and fiber produced in the United States. We will need to provide enough food and fiber for 9 billion people by the year 2050; a daunting task that will be taken on by your Nebraska and American Farmers.  American farmers are working harder than ever, and it shows. The need for food produced in the United States is dramatic. Agriculture is this nation's #1 export and vitally important in sustaining a healthy economy. And it's not just the farmer who makes our food possible. The entire agriculture industry, from farm to all the way to the grocery store, is full of vital links in a chain that brings food to every citizen - and millions of people abroad.  That's really what this day is all about . . . recognizing the role of agriculture - and celebrating it!