Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Weekly Column

Senator Mike Johanns

A Bipartisan Blueprint for Housing Reform

When government-sponsored mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac failed in the height of the Great Recession, taxpayers were forced to pick up the pieces and the tab. Just as many Americans were coming to grips with the reality that their retirement savings had been all but decimated, the federal government was readying a $187 billion taxpayer bailout of the home finance industry.
While many hard lessons were learned from this economic downturn, the system that led to the collapse of the housing market is still in place today, leaving you on the hook for yet another bailout should the industry falter again. That’s why I’ve teamed with a bipartisan group of colleagues on the Senate Banking Committee to reform our nation’s mortgage system, reducing the government’s footprint in the industry and protecting you and all taxpayers from future bailouts. I’m pleased that legislation based on our proposal is being considered by the Senate Banking Committee this week, and hopeful the reform effort crosses the finish line this year despite the election-year gridlock. It’s important on many levels.
The housing market accounts for 20 percent of America’s total economy, so it’s critical that the new system protects taxpayers while ensuring lenders of all sizes across the nation are able to offer competitive rates to the homebuyers they serve. The bipartisan plan would phase out Fannie and Freddie over five years and replace them with a new entity modeled after the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), which protects your bank and credit union deposits. It puts an end to the current no-risk, all-reward model by requiring those who invest in mortgages to put more skin in the game. Their money should be on the line first, not yours. Risky business practices will be less likely if they have to pay the price.
The bill goes one step further to take taxpayers off the hook for future bailouts by ensuring those participating in the system contribute to a fund that covers deeper losses. If this legislation would have been in place before the collapse of the housing market, you and other taxpayers would not have been left holding the bag for the failed investments of others.
Reforming our mortgage system also means ensuring access to competitive 30-year mortgages. This legislation allows small and rural lenders equal access to the mortgage market and gets rid of the volume-based discount system, which benefitted the nation’s largest banks.  Local lenders, many of whom serve Nebraska, are the lifeblood of rural communities, so it’s important that they are able to invest in their neighbors without being swallowed up by major lenders.
Now is the time to act on meaningful mortgage finance reform. This legislation is good for the economy, good for taxpayers and good for small lenders and the folks they serve. The window of opportunity is limited as thoughts turn to the mid-term elections, so it is important that the full Senate considers this bill in a timely manner.  I will press my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to achieve these needed reforms for taxpayers before the end of the year.

Johanns Statement on Housing Finance Reform Markup

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb) today applauded the intense work being done to put final touches on bipartisan legislation to protect taxpayers from future bailouts of the housing market. Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-SD) and Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) plan a committee vote Thursday on the bill.
“I commend our committee leaders for their commitment to addressing our broken housing finance system,” Johanns said. “We are finally lifting Fannie and Freddie off the shoulders of taxpayers, who as of today, are inexcusably still on the hook for a bailout. I’ve been proud to be part of the bipartisan group of problem-solvers who got this ball rolling and I’m pleased the bill has broad support in committee. I am eager to get this bill across the finish line and finally put the private sector back in the mortgage business, after five years of being propped up by the government.”
Johanns worked with Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) to craft the bipartisan legislation Johnson and Crapo are using as a foundation for the Banking Committee’s proposal. The Corker-Warner-Johanns bill - S. 1217, which stands before the committee this week - takes taxpayers off the hook for future bailouts, winds down
government-supported Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, preserves the 30-year fixed
rate mortgage and ensures access to the mortgage market for small lenders.

History Mystery

Blue Hill Today received this note from Andy Jacobitz.  We hope that our readers may be able to help him with this historical mystery.  If you can help or know anyone who might be able to help answer this mystery please ask them to take a look and help identify these individuals.  You can leave your comments in the comment line on this blog or contact  Andy Jacobitz (ajjacobitz@cox.net)                                                    
From Andy:  My great-great grandparents, Gottfried Meyer (1813-1899) and Florentine Riemes (1820-1909), settled around the Blue Hill area in the 1870s, and I am working on an extensive photo archive project of them and their descendants.  Many still live in the Blue Hill area.
A note on the back of these pictures attached indicate that they were taken at the Blue Hill Opera House, and we believe they are from around 1880.  The pictures are the first to appear in an important and historic family photo album.  They are followed by many family members we have identified, so we believe they are part of the family.  Nevertheless, none of Gottfried and Florentine's descendants have been unable to identify the people in these pictures. 
Would you be able to post them on your site to see if anyone happens to recognize them from a similar old photo they have?   Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

Sunday, April 27, 2014


Charles Swindoll
"The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. 
 Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. 
It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think, say or do. 
 It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. 
It will make or break a company... a church... a home. 
The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we embrace for that day.  We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. 
We cannot change the inevitable. 
 The only thing we can do is play the one string we have, and that is our attitude...
 I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.
And so it is with you...
we are in charge of our Attitudes”

Saturday, April 26, 2014


Duane A. Lienemann
UNL Extension Educator

  If you stop at the local coffee shops, like I do in the morning, to catch up with what is going on in the farming world, you won’t find too many farmers right now.  They are, of course either preparing for - or most likely - planting this year’s crop.  You might catch them for a few minutes if they were lucky enough to get more than ten hundredths of much needed moisture, but even then it is usually a quick discussion of who got the most and where it landed.  It does seem some times that the first liar doesn’t have a chance, but that has always been the case with farmers about how much rain and their crop yields and perhaps even what their calves brought at the sale barn.  It is what makes it fun to sit in on the discussion that is carried on in cafes, co-ops, feed stores or any other destinations that a farmer knows to find coffee and friends.
     For those that participate or have even just stopped in to listen--- you know that the discussion ranges from corn and soybean prices to the new farm bill and then switches to farm auctions, new machinery advances, school and local events, cattle talk, Husker sports and yes, even once in a while some political discussion. You have to be on your toes as the direction of discussion changes course as fast as a coyote on the run, and there can be more than one discussion going on at the same time. Now it takes a real “expert” to follow everything and the really good listeners can glean bits and pieces from each topic and discussion and even put a word in sideways. I would bet this scenario is not much different anywhere in the Midwest and particularly in our little part of the world. When it comes down to it we are all pretty much made up the same, with the same values, interests, concerns and penchant to hang out with our friends and other people with similar interests and concerns.
     There is one topic that I picked up on a couple of weeks ago that I meant to try to give some explanation to, as there seems to be confusion or just plain lack of information.  I kind of put it on the back burner, but now may be a good time to discuss the update to Nebraska’s rules on CDL requirements for farmers.  I gave the basics of this change in an earlier column, but maybe we need to try to give explanation or some guidelines in regards to this change in how we do business. 
     For a little background, LB 983 was signed into Nebraska law by Governor Heineman on March 29 and became effective the very next day. Among the provisions of LB 983 was the implementation of Federal MAP 21 legislation regarding exemptions for drivers of covered farm vehicles (CFV) in Nebraska’s laws. These exemptions bring Nebraska law in line with federal laws that created the CDL exemptions in 2012.
     First what comprises the CFV’s for CDL consideration? (There has to be a joke in there somewhere.) As I understand it means -  “A motor vehicle, including an articulated motor vehicle, that:  Is operated by a farm/ranch owner or operator, or an employee or a family member of the farmer or rancher and is used to transport agricultural commodities, livestock or machinery or supplies to and from a farm or ranch, and is equipped with a special license plate or other designation by the state in which the vehicle is registered to allow for the identification of the vehicle as a farm vehicle by law enforcement.” What it does not include is: “Vehicles for hire and/or a combination of truck-tractor and semitrailer which is operated by a person under eighteen years of age and/or a combination of truck-tractor and semitrailer transporting hazardous materials in quantities that require placarding. “  Now as I understand it, a “placardable” quantity of hazardous materials means that it is a large enough amount to be contained within tanks or drums which are fixed to the exterior surface of the transport vehicle.
     The next thing to ask is where can covered farm vehicles be operated? I knew it had something to do with weight and it does. Let’s break that down. If you carry 26,000 pounds or less then you can be operating anywhere in Nebraska and in any other state.  If you carry 26,001 pounds or more then only anywhere in Nebraska, but you may cross state lines, provided it is operated within 150 miles of the farm/ranch’s operation. That answers the question about our South Central Nebraska farmers who operate both in Nebraska and Kansas.  One thing is for sure - if you plan to travel in other states using the covered farm exemption, be sure that you know what regulations apply in those states as they vary state by state.
     Another common question is if you have to surrender the CDL you now have? The short answer is that there is no need to surrender your CDL, unless you want to. Keep in mind, if you do drop your CDL, you’ll have to start all over if you ever want to drive vehicles requiring a CDL in the future. Just keep in mind what vehicles still require a CDL.
     Some other things to consider are straight forward. These little items include little tidbits like: unregistered farm vehicles do not qualify for the farm plated CDL exemptions; an operator of a Nebraska farm plated vehicle is still required to have a Class O license and must be at least 18 years old if driving a semi-truck and trailer – even if a CDL is not required; Pickups pulling anhydrous tanks remain exempt from a CDL requirements; semi-trucks and trailers hauling placardable amounts of hazardous materials are still subject to CDL’s and CDL requirements; and nothing in Nebraska’s state laws prevents owners of farm plated vehicles from continuing to obtain CDLs and meeting CDL requirement or requiring their employees to do so. Please keep in mind that the US DOT numbers are still required for farm plated vehicles (straight trucks, pickups pulling trailers, semi-trucks with trailers, etc.) when crossing state lines (ie. if you have land in Kansas and in Nebraska).
     Lastly, I would like to congratulate all the FFA members and Chapters who recently were recognized at the State FFA Convention in Lincoln.  I, each year, have the opportunity to help with the selection of the State FFA proficiency winners and State FFA Stars and in reviewing their applications, record books, interviews and even by just visiting with these great young people -- I can tell you that we have some very bright, articulate and outstanding young people - ready for our future!

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 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Fischer Writes IRS Commissioner Demanding Answers For Mismanagement and Wrongful Bonuses

Fischer Writes IRS Commissioner Demanding Answers For Mismanagement and Wrongful Bonuses

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) today sent a letter to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner John Koskinen in response to a report released on April 22 by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration showing a number of IRS employees received bonuses even though they had been cited for misconduct in 2010, 2011, and 2012. In addition, the Associated Press reported, “Other examples of misconduct by workers getting bonuses included misusing government credit cards for travel, drug use, violent threats and fraudulently claiming unemployment benefits.”

The report also highlights that “The IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998 does not specifically mention awards, but does make mandatory the removal of IRS employees who are found to have intentionally committed certain acts of misconduct, including willful failure to pay Federal taxes.”

Fischer’s letter asks for specific answers to a number of questions, including exactly how many employees received bonuses and what steps, if any, the IRS plans to take to recover the bonuses awarded to its tax delinquent employees. Fischer also calls for the termination of all tax delinquent employees, pursuant to current law.

Fischer writes: “I am extremely disappointed by the IRS’s actions. These reports are absolutely unacceptable. This comes at a particularly frustrating time when our country faces serious fiscal challenges and a soaring $17 trillion national debt. As the federal agency tasked with administering the U.S. tax code, the revelation of this double standard, coupled with the misuse of taxpayer dollars, completely undermines confidence in the government’s ability to carry out its responsibilities in a manner worthy of the public’s trust.”

A signed copy of Fischer’s letter is available online HERE, and the full text can be found below.
*          *          *

April 25, 2014
The Honorable John A. Koskinen
Commissioner of Internal Revenue
Internal Revenue Service
1111 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20224

Dear Commissioner Koskinen:

            According to the Internal Revenue Service’s 2011 FERDI report, 1,289 federal employees at the U.S. Department of the Treasury have a balance owed of $9,312,010 on their federal taxes.  Additionally, the Associated Press reported on April 22, 2014 that,  “Other examples of misconduct by [IRS] workers getting bonuses included misusing government credit cards for travel, drug use, violent threats and fraudulently claiming unemployment benefits.”

I am extremely disappointed by the IRS’s actions.  These reports are absolutely unacceptable.  This comes at a particularly frustrating time when our country faces serious fiscal challenges and a soaring $17 trillion national debt.  As the federal agency tasked with administering the U.S. tax code, the revelation of this double standard, coupled with the misuse of taxpayer dollars, completely undermines confidence in the government’s ability to carry out its responsibilities in a manner worthy of the public’s trust.

The American people demand accountability, and nothing less.  Please respond to the following questions:

1.      How many IRS employees who have misused their government credit card received a monetary bonus, and time-off awards?  How were the government credit cards misused?  Furthermore, what disciplinary actions were taken to penalize the aforementioned employees?

2.      To date, how many IRS employees owe taxes and how much do they owe?  What steps have been taken, including wage garnishment, to ensure that taxes owed by IRS employees are paid in a timely manner?

3.      Does the IRS intend to demand return of bonuses from IRS employees who have been cited for misconduct related to waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer funds?  Please provide a written justification explaining why, if any, IRS employees as identified in the Treasury Inspector General For Tax Administration’s report that was released on April 22, 2014, would not be required to pay back their bonuses.

4.      According to the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998 [P.L. 105-206], an IRS employee can be terminated for the “willful failure to file any return of tax required under the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 on or before the date prescribed therefor (including any extensions), unless such failure is due to reasonable cause and not to willful neglect.”  Since 1998, how many IRS employees have been terminated for not filing taxes?  How many IRS employees in violation have received a penalty without termination?

5.      Additionally, an IRS employee can be terminated for “willful understatement of Federal tax liability, unless such understatement is due to reasonable cause and not to willful neglect” [P.L. 105-206].  Since 1998, how many IRS employees have been terminated for not paying taxes owed?  How many IRS employees in violation have received a penalty without termination?

The IRS needs to take action and enforce current law in order to ensure that IRS’s employees pay for their taxes.  IRS employees who fail to comply with this law, should be immediately dismissed, not rewarded.

Thank you for your attention to my request.  Please provide the requested information no later than May 24, 2014.

                                                                        Deb Fischer
                                                                        United States Senator


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Gov. Heineman to Veterans: Come to Nebraska for Great Careers


State of Nebraska and State Chamber Promote Veteran Recruitment Efforts
(Lincoln, Neb.) Today, Gov. Dave Heineman is promoting “The Good Life for Veterans” jobs recruiting campaign, focused on meeting Nebraska’s workforce needs through attracting military veterans and their families from other states to move to Nebraska. The initiative is a partnership between state government, business and veterans groups including the Nebraska Department of Labor, the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Nebraska’s private business employers and others.
“Employers like to hire veterans because our businesses are looking for skilled employees and veterans bring excellent skills to the workforce,” said Gov. Heineman. “Following active duty deployments, many servicemen and women are looking for employment and a place to call home. Nebraska’s diverse job opportunities combined with our high quality of life make our state a perfect location.”
Nebraska employers and other representatives are attending a series of military career fairs in several states, including a career expo in Lawton, Okla. held in February and a Hiring Our Heroes career fair today at Fort Riley in Junction City, Kan. Nebraska will also have a presence at the Fort Carson employment fair in Colorado Springs, Colo. on May 22. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado had a higher number of unemployed veterans than Nebraska in 2013. Around a third of the states averaged veteran unemployment rates of 7 percent or above, including several states averaging above 10 percent. 
The initiative began after a Nebraska Chamber survey found that more than half of nearly 450 private business survey respondents had experienced difficulty hiring qualified employees during the past year. More than 25 percent of respondents said a lack of available labor or skilled employees was the key issue limiting their growth. At the same time, employers have expressed their desire for the commitment, maturity and diversity that exists within the veteran population.
“With Nebraska’s unemployment rate hovering around 3.7 percent, help wanted signs are plentiful all across our state,” said Barry Kennedy, the Nebraska Chamber president. “Military veterans offer employers a wide array of skills, a strong work ethic and proven self-discipline.  Moreover, they are mobile and willing to relocate for good opportunities. Nebraska’s presence at military jobs fairs is part of a focused strategy to expand our skilled labor force. We appreciate the attention devoted to this initiative by the Governor and the Department of Labor.”
To attract veterans from states with higher veteran unemployment, the campaign is highlighting Nebraska’s quality of life in addition to the available jobs. Nebraska’s well-being is highly ranked according to Gallup surveys, and the overall cost of living is 11 percent below the U.S. average according to MarketWatch.com. Additionally, veterans who have separated from the military are now eligible for in-state tuition at Nebraska’s state colleges and universities.
“We are excited to be part of this initiative that benefits both employers and veterans,” said Commissioner of Labor and Director of Economic Development Cathy Lang. “Nebraska consistently has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, so finding ways to attract new workers to our labor force is always a priority. Veterans and their families are welcomed by Nebraskans and our excellent employers.”
When looking at possible career choices, data from NEworks, the Department of Labor’s employment website, shows that Nebraska’s health care, manufacturing, and transportation industries have a high number of available jobs. Scientific, administrative and construction positions are also available.
The Nebraska Chamber has established the website www.TheGoodLifeForVeterans.com to help share the initiative with out-of-state veterans, including former Nebraska residents. The site contains information about living and working in Nebraska, as well as veteran services, education, recreation and entertainment. The Department of Labor produced a video titled “Nebraska Hires Veterans” that can be found on the website and features veterans from across the country who have found good jobs in Nebraska. Additionally, the recruiting video is highlighted on www.Nebraska.gov and the Governor’s website, www.Governor.Nebraska.gov.
The “Nebraska Hires Veterans” video is being distributed nationally to and by veterans, their friends and family, veteran support organizations and many others to draw job-seeking veterans to Nebraska. The video features veterans from various parts of the country, and a wide array of occupations, discussing why Nebraska truly is “The Good Life” when you’re transitioning from military service.
Those employers interested in more information on upcoming recruiting fairs can contact Grace Johnson with the Nebraska Department of Labor at (402) 471-4189 or Grace.Johnson@nebraska.gov.
The Good Life for Veterans initiative builds off of the recent Hire Our Heroes career hiring events being held throughout the state, which is the cooperative effort between the United States Chamber of Commerce, the Nebraska Department of Labor and the Nebraska National Guard that helps veterans and military spouses find meaningful employment in Nebraska. Since the first event was held in Lincoln in April 2012, there have been 12 Hiring Our Heroes events held in Nebraska. These job fairs have been held in Lincoln, Omaha, Norfolk, Alliance, Holdrege, Papillion, Beatrice and Grand Island. The hiring fairs have served approximately 1,500 veterans and 350 employers.

Gov. Heineman Announces New Nebraska Job Searching Mobile App


(Lincoln, Neb.) Today, Gov. Dave Heineman announced a new mobile app for smartphones and tablets to aid in searching for available Nebraska jobs. The free app is an extension of NEworks.nebraska.gov, the Nebraska Department of Labor’s job site that matches employers with qualified candidates.
“Agencies are always implementing new ways to use technology in serving Nebraskans,” said Gov. Heineman. “Both employers and job seekers will benefit from this new app.”
There are currently approximately 35,000 Nebraska jobs posted on NEworks and nearly 25,000 resumes of qualified job seekers. The mobile app gives users the option to search jobs by company, job title and location. The app is available for download in the App Store and Google Play by searching “NEworks” on Android devices or “Nebraska Jobs” on Apple devices. Once in the app, the ‘Jobs Nearby’ feature quickly identifies jobs in the user’s immediate area. Users can easily share job listings via email, Facebook and Twitter, as well as save their favorite jobs and searches. 
“The job search process can be daunting, so we are excited to offer this app as a way to make the job search features of NEworks even more accessible,” said Commissioner of Labor and Director of Economic Development Catherine Lang. 
In addition to the mobile app, Nebraska’s Chambers of Commerce and economic development organizations across the state have begun placing ‘Local Jobs’ buttons on their websites that link to NEworks. The employment opportunities searchable via the ‘Local Jobs’ buttons showcase job openings in the surrounding areas.
“The local jobs initiative leverages each organization’s technological resources to directly promote employment opportunities in local communities and regions,” Commissioner Lang said. “Employers will benefit from the increased exposure to their current openings.”
The NEworks website offers a full menu of employment tools and resources for both employers and job seekers.  The site contains career exploration resources, employer information, assessment tools, and labor market data. If you need to make informed decisions on careers, training, wages, occupation searches, and resource recruitment, please visit NEworks.nebraska.gov.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Nationwide Perscription Drug Take-Back Day

LINCOLN - Attorney General Jon Bruning and the Nebraska State Patrol today announced seven collection sites in Nebraska for the Nationwide Prescription Drug Take- Back Day to be held Saturday, April 26, 2014. The agencies have partnered with the DEA to coordinate collection sites across the state to offer a secure way to dispose of unused or expired prescription medication.
At six national take-back events since May 2011, the Attorney General’s Office and partner law enforcement agencies have collected a total of 4,145 lbs. of unwanted drugs in coordination with the DEA. Statewide, 35,381 lbs. have been collected at sites during the national events. 
“I’m proud to partner with the Nebraska State Patrol and health facilities across the state to provide a safe and easy way to dispose of potentially dangerous medications,” said Bruning. “No one wants to see another life lost to prescription drug abuse.”
Unused medication will be collected between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. at sites in Lincoln, Fremont, McCook, Columbus, Grand Island, West Point and York.
The Nationwide Take-Back campaign serves the dual purpose of creating awareness of prescription drug misuse and abuse and providing the public an opportunity to surrender their unused, unwanted, or expired pharmaceuticals to law enforcement for proper disposal.
The following locations will host collection sites from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 26:
Guardian Angels Homecare
3200 O Street, Suite 6 (North side of 32nd & O St.) 
Fremont Area Medical Center
450 East 23rd Street 
West Point
St. Francis Memorial Hospital
430 N. Monitor Street  2 
Columbus Community Hospital
 4600 38th Street
Tri County Hospital
1201 North Erie
York General Hospital
 2222 N. Lincoln Avenue 
Grand Island
St. Francis Medical Center
2620 West Faidley   
For more information on collection site locations, visit www.nationaltakebackday.com

Gov. Heineman Signs Autism Coverage Bill into Law


(Lincoln, Neb.) Today, Gov. Dave Heineman is signed LB 254 into law. As a result of this law, some health insurance plans in Nebraska will provide coverage for screening, diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorder in a child until the insured child is 21 years old.
“I’m pleased to sign this autism bill into law,” said Gov. Heineman. “I am signing this bill on behalf of Nebraska families who meet the challenges of autism every day.”
The Governor held a public bill signing news conference on with autism advocates. The autism bill was sponsored by State Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln, and had the backing of many autism advocacy groups and families.
“I care about this issue because I have seen the impact that this treatment can have on the future of a child with autism,” said State Sen. Coash. “Positive things can happen when they receive life-changing treatment. These families are strong willed and they never gave up on the bill, so I wouldn’t either. Today is a special day.”
One of the autism advocates involved in the legislation is Vicki Depenbusch of Lincoln, who is the mother of an autistic son, Jacob. Governor Heineman met Jacob at his parent teacher conference held in 2010. For the last 4 years, the two have communicated regularly and attended events together. Governor Heineman appreciates his friendship with Jacob, who calls himself the “Governor’s Buddy.”
“This is a great day for Autism families in Nebraska,” said Depenbusch. “It gives us hope that our children will be the best citizens that they can be.”
The insurance coverage includes behavioral health treatment, such as applied behavior analysis, for autism. This type of treatment will be limited to 25 hours per week and the insurer will be able to review the treatment once every six months. 
Certain insurance plans will be exempt from providing the autism requirement, according to LB 254. Those include health plans sold in the individual or small group federally facilitated marketplace under the federal Affordable Care Act. Also, Nebraska is preempted from mandating coverage on plans governed by the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). Most private employer sponsored plans are ERISA plans.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Taxed at Every Turn

Deb Fischer
Sen. Deb Fischer
Each year, April 15 serves as the dreaded deadline for all Americans to file their taxes. Nebraskans, especially small business owners, spend hours going through their records to fill out the necessary forms and meet the IRS’ seemingly endless reporting requirements. An estimate from the National Taxpayer Advocate last year indicates Americans collectively spend 6.1 billion hours and $168 billion on efforts to navigate our confusing tax code and file taxes.
Hardworking Americans – including many who work two or three jobs to support their families – shouldn’t be expected to dedicate countless hours to comply with these burdensome requirements, or spend their money to hire expensive accountants.
When the income tax was ratified in 1913, the entire tax code was 400 pages. Today’s code and related rules now total more than 73,000 pages. While these regulations cause stress and frustration for families, they also create financial hardships that hold back businesses and job creators.
Tax Day is an annual reminder that our complex tax laws desperately need reforms. I remain committed to promoting a simpler, fairer system that provides certainty and encourages economic growth. To do so, I have been working on a number of specific legislative proposals that provide relief for families and job creators. These efforts include legislation to stop new taxes and eliminate misguided taxes already on the books.
For example, I cosponsored legislation to prevent the Obama administration from bypassing Congress to enact a costly national energy tax. If implemented, the president’s energy tax plan would jeopardize valuable jobs and raise electricity prices for all Nebraska families.
As a cosponsor of the Tax Freedom Forever Act, I have also worked to prohibit fresh taxation that could stall progress in needed broadband development. This legislation bans any new taxes on Internet access, as well as multiple or discriminatory taxes on electronic commerce.
As more and more consumers spend their time and money online, expanded Internet access is increasingly essential to help businesses stay competitive and foster growth. Improved broadband access is also critical for promoting public safety. Rather than hindering growth with more taxes for more wasteful spending, the federal government should work to help both rural and urban communities update their aging and incomplete infrastructure.
The nearly century-old death tax is especially harmful as it taxes hardworking Americans twice – once when they earn their money, and again when they give it away. Family farmers, ranchers, and small business owners – our chief job creators – are hit hardest by the death tax, which undermines their ability to pass along thriving businesses to future generations. That’s why I cosponsored the Death Tax Repeal Act to permanently eliminate it from our tax code.
This year, April 15 was also the deadline for some Americans to sign up for government-approved health coverage, as required under ObamaCare. Unfortunately, many families will be forced to pay a penalty tax simply because they were unable to find affordable plans. Rather than lowering costs as promised, ObamaCare has caused millions of Americans to face higher premiums and diminished access to doctors they like. But it’s not just the individual mandate tax – there are over 20 new or increased taxes in ObamaCare, a law I remain committed to repealing and replacing with commonsense, patient-centered reforms.
These examples hardly scratch the surface of how our current tax policies are hurting Nebraska families and job creators. Moreover, the vast majority of economists agree that the single best way to create jobs and generate economic growth is through comprehensive tax reform – an issue I assumed would be at the top of our agenda when I arrived in Washington. Unfortunately, the Democrat leader in the Senate has not made it a top priority. Despite the lack of progress, I stand ready to work with my colleagues to make needed reforms. It’s hard work, but it’s why Nebraskans sent me here in the first place.
Thank you for taking part in our democratic process, and I’ll visit with you again next week.
Deb Fischer
United States Senator

Lenae Kohmetscher Listed among Winners of 2014 Congressional Art Competition

Congressman Adrian Smith (R-NE) announced the winning artists of the 2014 Congressional Art Competition: An Artistic Discovery.  Smith worked with the Nebraska Art Teachers Association to coordinate the competition.
The first place artwork will be displayed in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Smith will display the runners-up in his Washington, D.C. and Third District offices.
“Congratulations to the winners of this year’s Congressional Art Competition and to all of the students who submitted their work,” said Smith.  “The quality of the art submitted this year is further evidence of the talent of Third District students and their teachers.”

First Place: Thomas Hoxmeier from Orleans, Southern Valley High School
“Then There Were Three”
Thomas’ work will be displayed in the U.S. Capitol for one year.

Second Place: Ethan Nelson from Dalton, Nelson Home School
Ethan’s work will be displayed in Smith’s Washington, D.C. office.

Third Place: Lenae Kohmetscher from Blue Hill, Blue Hill Community School
“The Reason Behind it All”
Lenae’s work will be displayed in Smith’s Scottsbluff office.

Fourth Place: Shelby Engles from Kearney, Kearney High School
“My Best Friend”
Shelby’s work will be displayed in Smith’s Grand Island office.

Lenae is a student of Blue Hill art teacher Christine Brown who annually encourages her students  to enter the competition.. Mrs. Brown's Blue Hill Students have represented the school very well  in the competition for several years. 
This competition is open to all high school art students in Nebraska’s third congressional district. Each congressional district selects it's own winners.
Art works entered in the contest were to be two dimensional up to 28 inches by 28 inches (including the frame) and may be up to 4 inches in depth. The art work may be: Paintings - including oil, acrylics, and watercolor Drawings - including pastels, colored pencil, pencil, charcoal, ink, and markers Collage Prints - including lithographs, silkscreen, and block prints Mixed Media Computer Generated Art Photography All entries must be an original in concept, design and execution.
The Congressional Art Competition began in 1982 to provide an opportunity for members of Congress to encourage and recognize the artistic talents of their young constituents. Since then, over 650,000 high school students have been involved with the nationwide competition
In 2010, the competition was won by Blue Hill art student Kassie Starkey. Her art work entitled "Alone in Thought" was displayed at the capital building for a year.
 It was replaced in 2011 by Michaela Schlesinger's 2011 submission.  Danielle Wallace of Blue Hill was 1st alternate in 2010 with her piece called "portrait in a cassette tape". 
In 2012  Andi Meyer of Blue Hill won second place in the contest.with her oil painting entitled "Venice"
 Andi’s work was displayed in Smith’s Washington, D.C. office.

This competition is sponsored by Members of the U. S. House of representative and facilitated by the Nebraska Art Teachers Association.


Duane A. Lienemann
UNL Extension Educator

     I absolutely love this time of year! New born calves with their tails up in the air, running after each other or chasing a windblown object; the fresh smell after a long awaited rain; farmers in mass fertilizing, spraying or even planting – some chomping at the bit to get going; nice days with cool nights for great sleeping; the trees budding and even leafing out; crocus and other early flowers poking out of the ground; baby spears of grass starting to emerge – greening the pastures; all in the promise of a renewed agricultural year. Let us not forget another renewal – the renewal provided by this Holy season.
     As I write this column it is Good Friday. Let’s take pause from the activities of early spring to reflect a while. The Friday before Easter, is recognized and mourned as the anniversary of Christ’s death on the cross. It has been set apart as a holy day as long ago as the 300s. In some countries in Europe, bells are tied on this day so that they cannot ring. This is considered a solemn day, and is approached with a spirit of humility and reverence. Many Christians spend this day in fasting, prayer, repentance, and meditation on the agony and suffering of their savior, who gave his life for the salvation of mankind. While it concerns suffering, crucifixion, cruelty and death, I always wondered why this day was called “Good” Friday. 
     I, of course, did some research and found some ministerial explanations. The most common for many Christians is that Good Friday is considered a day of sorrow but mingled with joy. It is considered a time to grieve over the sin of man but to also meditate and rejoice upon God's love in giving His only Son for the redemption of sin. Good Friday is “good” because as terrible as that day was, it had to happen for us to receive the joy of Easter!  Interesting enough I also found more academic explanations. I learned that there are two possible origins for the name "Good Friday". The first may have come from the Gallican Church in Gaul (modern-day France and Germany). The name "Gute Freitag" is Germanic in origin and literally means "good" or "holy" Friday. The second possibility is a variation on the name "God's Friday," where the word "good" was used to replace the word "God," which was often viewed as too holy to be spoken aloud.
     Then on the third day after Christ’s crucifixion on the cross, we celebrate Easter which honors his resurrection, or rising from the dead, which coincides with spring, the time when flowers, warm sun and green grass are beginning to push aside the dreary cold of winter and nature has its own resurrection. We have a resurrection – a renewal of nature and life.
     Have you heard of the Passion Flower?  It is actually the “Maypop”, a weed found growing in fields with an edible fruit, is commonly called the passion flower because the flower parts of its beautiful, unique lavender bloom seem to represent Christ’s Passion. The fringes in the center of the five petals are symbolic of Christ’s crown of thorns and the five pollen-bearing antlers are like the marks of his wounds. The division of the pistil where the seed develops represents the nails of the cross. The leaf is a symbol of the spear, which pierced his side while the tendrils of the plant represent the whips and cords used to beat and bound him, with the column of the ovary representing the pillar of the cross.
     Another beautiful flower which has come to be a sign of Easter, is the Easter lily, a tall plant with large waxy white fragrant blooms, a symbol of purity and light shaped like a trumpet as if to announce the risen Christ. It is primarily representative of a renewal. Just as the earth is dressed in a new cloak of greenery, people also wear new clothes for Easter.
     We cannot forget what a lot of young kids associate with Easter – the colored eggs hidden for them to find. The idea of Easter eggs actually came to us from ancient Egypt and Persia and the eggs are another sign of new life. The Easter bunny, which is now traditional at Easter, is actually another legend that originated in ancient times and is a novelty that young children eagerly look forward to. How, though, did the tradition of the bunny rabbit and eggs come about? 
     Being the educator, that I try to be, I can without reservation tell you that rabbits do not lay eggs. They instead give birth to live young. The modern method of celebration with both eggs and bunny during the Easter holiday has a history not only through Christianity but through paganism as well. Long ago in pre-Christian Germany, people worshipped the goddess Eostra during this same time of year. Eostra is the goddess of renewal and fertility. One of her symbols is the hare (or rabbit) due to the creature’s high rate of reproduction. Additionally, both eggs and the full moon are symbols of Eostre as both are indicative of renewal and fertility. Pay special attention to the name of this Goddess.
     You may by now have seen a connection.  Eostre supposedly gave her name to the Christian festival which became known as Easter. Feasts once held in worship of the goddess became part of the celebration of the day in which Christians believe Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Eggs, rabbits, the beginning of spring, and fertility were still honored even as Catholicism took hold and people began worshipping the life and death of Jesus Christ. As often happens, old traditions merged with the new beliefs, and so the pagan beliefs regarding rabbits and eggs became merged with the resurrection of Jesus. The day of the Easter celebration is symbolic of new beginnings.
     No matter if you believe in Good Friday and Easter, or think that this is just another day – one cannot dismiss the signs of new life, a new beginning, a resurrection in reality of the things we love in Nature. One cannot help but marvel at all the things around us and especially the care and the work that goes into the providing for food and fiber for our world. God has a hand in it, but so do our farmers and ranchers. They work hand in hand with nature to provide the environment conducive to growth of new seeds that they place in soil that has been generated from past growing seasons, rich not only in nutrients but in hope and anticipation for a new crop – which springs from the remnants of the departed. Happy Easter everyone!

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 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Solutions for our Budget and the Economy

Rep. Adrian Smith
Last week, the House of Representatives passed a budget plan which honestly accounts for the federal government’s spending, proposes solutions to balance the budget in 10 years, and grow our economy.  This plan stands in stark contrast to current policy which will continue to spend more money than we have, burden our economy, and plague future generations with trillions of dollars of debt.
Our national debt has now exceeded $17 trillion, and without reform it is expected to increase by another $7.3 trillion during the next 10 years.  Despite the massive amount of deficit spending by the government, there is little to show for this “stimulus” to our economy.  Five years after the financial crisis far too many Americans are unemployed, underemployed, or live in poverty.  The lack of improvement in our economy is just the latest evidence we cannot tax, spend, and regulate our way to prosperity.
In order to grow the economy and create jobs we have to get government out of the way.  The House-passed budget would remove the government imposed barriers to growth by making responsible reforms to long-term spending, calling for a simpler tax code, promoting American energy production, and repealing burdensome policies such as Obamacare.  Economic growth and new jobs would not only benefit America today, they will increase revenue and help reduce the debt.
However, private sector growth alone will not be enough to balance the budget.  The United States currently borrows about 40 cents of every dollar it spends.  This is irresponsible and unsustainable.  The House budget goes after fraud, waste, and abuse today, but is also honest about the real drivers of our long-term deficit – entitlement programs.  Without reform, these popular programs will go bankrupt, and to do nothing is to endorse their demise.
Thankfully, there is still time to reform health programs including Medicare without making changes for current retirees by introducing market-based reforms.  For example, Medicare Part D costs 55 percent less in 2012 than originally estimated because negotiations and competition have driven down prices at every level.  Similar reforms to Medicare as a whole would give seniors more control over their health care and make the program sustainable for future generations.  The budget also calls on Congress and the President to submit their plans to stabilize the Social Security trust fund.
This budget plan is not perfect, but I am proud we in the House of Representatives are working to address these problems not sweep them under the rug.  The President’s budget does not include a plan to reduce our long-term deficit, but rather doubles down on his current strategy of more taxes, more spending, and more debt.  Even worse, Senate Democrats have not and do not plan to introduce a budget at all.
I was disappointed last year when the House and Senate agreed to a budget which failed to address long-term spending and actually broke the budget caps agreed to on a bipartisan basis in 2011.  I voted against this budget because I believe we can and must do better.  Ultimately, the House and Senate will have to work together to pass a spending plan to fund the government, but the failure of Senate Democrats to even propose a budget which moves beyond last year’s agreement to address the long term deficits and debt will all but ensure we pass another stop-gap measure and continue down the current path for another year.
The House-passed budget is not only a solution to balance the budget and begin to pay down our debt, it represents our governing philosophy and principles.  We believe it is possible to restore opportunity, fairness, and prosperity for all Americans through limited government and economic growth.  I hope you will take the time to learn more about our plan at http://budget.house.gov/fy2015

Monday, April 14, 2014

Legislative Newsletter

Sen. Tom Carlson
On this 59th legislative day, this is my 8th and last regular Legislative Session. It has been a time of joy, education, hard work, good friends, and doing my best to represent my constituents. I have learned so much about our great state and its people.
Today was the passage of what I consider my most important bill of these eight years. While I consider water to be the theme of my tenure, LB 1098 will be remembered as a bill that helped make possible water sustainability for generations to come.
LB 1098 will change the membership of and provide powers and duties for the Nebraska Natural Resources Commission and make possible the distribution of money from the Water Sustainability Fund. The Natural Resources Commission will form rules and regulations to proceed in a process of considering appropriate research on water issues and evaluating proposed projects which contribute to attaining and maintaining a position of water sustainability across the state of Nebraska.
We have challenges of addressing water scarcity, water surplus, and water quality. LB 1098 provides the framework to deal with and solve these challenges.
In my view, we are water sustainable when, on average, we are not using any more water than what our supply provides. We must focus on growing more with less water, but we should also work to increase our supply of usable water. It is generally accepted that one million acre feet of water flows into the state every year while eight million acre feet flows out.
Appropriate amounts from the Water Sustainability Fund should be used to better hold back, or capture, water flowing into the state during wet years, to be used in dry years. We also need to address critical infrastructure to better guard against damaging floods.
Water is Life. LB 1098 is landmark legislation. I am thankful to those who served on the Water Sustainability Task Force last year. I also thank the Senators who served as advisory members on the Task Force, for the members of the Natural Resources Committee, and the members of the Legislature for their overwhelming support of LB 1098.
I appreciate Senator Lathrop for his contribution and the significant work of the Appropriations Committee for including the funding in the budget. Their support was critical.
We are near the end of this session. The past eight years, serving in the Legislature, have been one of the most interesting and satisfying experiences of my life. I am thankful for the support of you, my constituents, as well as my wife, Margo, and the legislative staff members who have been at my side each legislative day. I have the best staff in the Capitol. Thank you for allowing me this privilege.

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.



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


"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


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