Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Protecting Your Financial Decisions

U.S. Senator Deb Fischer
Nebraskans work hard, each and every day, to provide for their families. Many live paycheck to paycheck and make sacrifices to own their own home, make car payments, or pay for extracurricular activities for their kids. Whether it’s taxes, investing, or any number of financial responsibilities, managing it all can be complicated and overwhelming. Because of this, many families turn to financial advisors for help with staying on track and managing their hard-earned money.
Recently, the Obama administration introduced a new rule that will make it harder for families to receive sound financial advice. Commonly known as the “fiduciary rule,” this regulation from the Department of Labor would change the definition of a fiduciary and what “investment advice” really means. In short, the rule could make it harder for many individuals to open and maintain IRAs or retirement savings accounts. It could also lead to fewer companies offering 401(k) plans for their employees. Those who continue to use these retirement and investing services could face higher costs and less guidance on how to invest their resources for the best returns.
I have heard from many Nebraskans who are concerned with this rule and what it will do to the retirement savings they worked hard to set aside for their future. I have also received input from Nebraska’s small businesses, insurance providers, and financial professionals. They are all concerned about the potential consequences of this rule. It could enable the federal government to mandate how financial advisors run their businesses and force them to pass down extra costs to consumers.
Anyone can tell you that investing and financial planning are complicated endeavors. Under the right guidance however, these services provide opportunities for low and middle-income families to earn money, develop financial security, and prepare for retirement. Unfortunately, lower-income families are the very people this rule will harm the most.
Complying with regulations requires time and money. Wealthier consumers and larger businesses often have the resources to navigate costly regulations, but many small businesses are already struggling to stay afloat.
Because of these concerns, I joined my colleagues in the Senate this month to pass a joint resolution of disapproval pushing back on this rule. I also cosponsored two bills that offer responsible solutions to the problems this rule was trying to address: the Strengthening Access to Valuable Education and Retirement Support (SAVERS) Act and the Affordable Retirement Advice Protection Act. Both of these bills would protect Americans who are saving for retirement without forcing them into the fixed-fee arrangements that the fiduciary rule would, in many circumstances, mandate.
Across our state, Nebraskans depend on financial guidance to plan their futures and provide for their families. Our government should not be dictating who you can hire and what investments you can make. You have every right to seek out the best financial advice that fits your family’s unique priorities and goals. I will continue the fight to protect your ability to do so, and keep the government away from your pocketbook.
Thank you for taking part in our democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.

Saturday, May 28, 2016


Duane A. Lienemann
Nebraska Extension Educator
    I cannot remember a Memorial Day Weekend in previous memory that has been as wet as this one is. Believe me, I am not complaining as we were desperately in need of subsoil moister in our fields and especially our pastures. This last several weeks have been a real Godsend. Oh, I know that there are a lot of farmers that still have some seed to get in the ground and some hay to put up; but I have not heard too many of them complaining, as it is no secret that we have been in and out of drought ever since about 1999. I think we should be thankful for the rain but also for those that have gone before us.
     As I write this column we are at the beginning of Memorial Day weekend which is now observed on the last Monday in May. But did you know that what is now known as Memorial Day was originally designed to commemorate all men and women who have died in war or military service for the USA?  Many people do visit cemeteries and memorials on Memorial Day, but many more use it for rest and relaxation, many times at lakes or parks.  Many people have traditionally seen it as the start of the summer season. But whatever the traditions for families, I believe that we may find that it has lost its meaning over the years.  I think it would be good look at this holiday in this week’s edition to explain why I feel the way I do.      
     Let’s first look at a little history of this Holiday. You may be surprised that Memorial Day, as we now celebrate it, was inspired by the way people in Southern states honored their dead. That tradition was not lost on a General John Logan, Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, who observed the practice and felt strongly that it should be celebrated by our Nation. He went to Congress and proposed that a day be officially proclaimed as a day of memory for those that lost their lives during the Civil War.  The Congress did indeed declare the first day of remembrance on May 5, 1868 and it was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery, thus the original “Decoration Day.” I hope we have not forgot that history in today’s “Political Correctness”.
     I wonder how many people really knew or remembered that what we now call “Memorial Day,” was originally known as “Decoration Day.” The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873, but by 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states.  What is ironic is that this practice originated in the Confederate States, but yet the South refused to acknowledge the day, instead honoring their dead on separate days. This separation continued until after World War I when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring all Americans who died fighting in any war. It is now celebrated in almost every State on the last Monday in May and is officially “Memorial Day”.
     I think most people link this day with poppies. I would bet that many of you have donated a dollar or two to affix one of those red poppies to your lapel. Have you ever wondered where the poppy came in as part of the Memorial Day celebration?  Well, as I understand it, in 1915, inspired by the poem "In Flanders Fields," Moina Michael penned the following lines: “We cherish too, the Poppy red. That grows on fields where valor led. It seems to signal to the skies. That blood of heroes never dies.” She then conceived of an idea to wear red poppies on Memorial Day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. She was the first to wear one, and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need. Shortly before Memorial Day in 1922 the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) became the first veterans' organization to nationally sell poppies. Two years later their "Buddy" Poppy program was selling artificial poppies made by disabled veterans.  It is a tradition that is still popular around our country. Do you have yours?
     I mentioned at the beginning of this column that I believe we lost the value and meaning of the hallowed event. I quite honestly believe this happened with the passing by Congress of the “National Holiday Act of 1971” which was legislated to ensure a three day weekend for Federal holidays.  I think it just made it all the easier for people to be distracted from the spirit and meaning of the day. It may be worth noting that several Southern states have in the past held an additional separate day for honoring the Confederate war dead. Maybe the original practitioners still understand the reason. 
    I think that you will find that the traditional observance of Memorial Day has diminished over the years.  I think the moving to that three day weekend encouraged putting emphasis on other things other than our fallen soldiers.  Memorial Day has become less of an occasion of remembrance. Many people choose to hold picnics, sports events and family gatherings on this weekend. Many Americans, in my opinion, have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day. At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are increasingly ignored and even neglected. Most people no longer remember the proper flag etiquette for the day. While there are towns and cities that still hold Memorial Day parades, many have not held a parade in decades or put out flags at cemeteries or on the town square to honor them. I hope all of you truly observe this day!
     Some people think the day is for honoring any and all dead, and not just those fallen in service to our country. While I think it is good and right to honor our own passed loved ones, I think we don’t want to forget those who this day was originally prescribed for.  Thank a veteran or stop by the grave of someone who gave their life for their country and our collective freedom. I personally salute my father and both of my grandfathers who all served our country in World War II and World War I respectively. They are now gone but not forgotten. Nor do I forget all those that fought before them, with them, and since them to make sure we are free to celebrate as we do see fit. Let us not forget the reason for Memorial Day! 

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

Friday, May 27, 2016

Joining Forces to Fight Red Tape

Rep. Adrian Smith
Much of our time in Congress is spent fighting overreach by the executive branch. In fact, a study just released by the Heritage Foundation found 20,642 new regulations have been added throughout the Obama presidency.  
Growing regulatory burdens harm producers and consumers, individuals and families, and the overall health of our economy.
As summer begins, fuel demand will rise as more Nebraskans hit the road for vacations and activities. Consumers can enjoy greater savings at the pump when retailers have the opportunity to market more fuel options.
May is Renewable Fuels Month in Nebraska, an opportunity to celebrate and renew our commitment to expanding consumer choice, diversifying our fuel supply, and promoting American energy independence.
Ethanol provides consumers with a competitive alternative. Unfortunately, arbitrary regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) currently prevent the sale of E15 during summer months. The EPA granted E10 a waiver from its volatility standards in 1990, but this waiver has not yet been extended to E15 – despite the fact E15 is cheaper and less volatile than E10.
For many retailers, the steps required to comply with EPA regulations makes E15 uncompetitive. I have introduced legislation to extend the waiver to E15, allowing it to be sold year-round.
To encourage further investment in renewable fuels, I also cosponsored the Biodiesel Tax Incentive Reform and Extension Act introduced by Rep. Kristi Noem of South Dakota. The bill would reform the biodiesel tax credit so it is only used for U.S.-produced fuel.
In addition to stifling energy innovation, regulations also threaten the affordability and accessibility of agriculture products. Many Nebraska farmers and ranchers have expressed deep concerns to me about the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) regulations on anhydrous ammonia.
OSHA bypassed the rulemaking process and issued an interpretive memo in July 2015 redefining regulations on anhydrous ammonia. This change impacts approximately 3,800 agriculture retailers and would cost the industry in excess of $100 million to comply, likely forcing small retailers to stop selling anhydrous ammonia and restricting producers’ access to this important input.
When issuing the memo, OSHA ignored federal statute requiring major regulatory actions to be published for public comment. Retailers and producers should be given the opportunity to voice their concerns through the formal rulemaking process rather than having yet another unilateral regulation forced upon them by this administration.
In response to outcry from Nebraskans on OSHA’s actions, I introduced the Fertilizer Access and Responsible Management (FARM) Act in the U.S. House to block this misguided regulation. Senator Deb Fischer has also been an active leader on the issue in the U.S. Senate.
When it comes to finding ways to cut red tape, your feedback is crucial. If you are willing to join me in this effort and share your story about how regulations have impacted you, your family, or your livelihood, please visit my website at AdrianSmith.house.gov/YourStory to send me a note. You can also learn more about my ongoing efforts to provide regulatory relief to Nebraskans at AdrianSmith.house.gov/RegulationRewind.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Sasse Reacts to Obamacare's Premium Hikes in Nebraska


U.S. Senator Ben Sasse issued the following statement regarding the news that families who get their health insurance on Obamacare’s exchanges from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska or Medica could face an average premium rate increase of 35 percent next year.
“A 35 percent premium increase isn’t political for Nebraska families – it’s unaffordable, plain and simple. This massive rate hike follows the trend created by Obamacare. Never-ending cost increases combined with decreasing insurer competition and choice is even more proof that this law just doesn’t work. Nebraskans deserve relief from this failure. Relief cannot come from more European-style, centrally-planned boondoggles – it has to come from true, patient-centered reform.” 
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska is requesting average rate increase of 34.9 percent for individual ACA exchange plans for 2017.
According to their filing, "The increase will affect approximately 13,000 policyholders, representing about 25,000 members, based on our April 2016 membership numbers."
Medica, another company selling on the exchange in Nebraska, is requesting an average rate increase of 34.5 percent for 2017 individual plans. Medica says this will impact an estimated 5,791 members.
Information on these rate increases can be found here.
Information on exchange insurer choice and competition can be found here.

Saturday, May 21, 2016


Duane A. Lienemann
Nebraska Extension Educator
      Last week I started talking about a couple of meetings I had attended, and this week I want to focus on the second meeting, as it really touches on some things that may be ahead for our beef producers and could even effect consumers. There are several things coming down the pike that we at least should be cognizant about. The meeting in question was the 2016 Beef Methane Conference that was held in Lincoln last week. This topic will likely take a couple of weeks to discuss.
     It was an interesting meeting in that we learned the latest on beef cattle enteric methane production, why it is produced and the impact of its production on the beef industry and what it may mean for beef producers. We had the opportunity to listen to experts from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and other universities across North America, in addition to producer representatives who spoke on methane emissions from beef cattle. There were topics such as separating the facts from fiction for livestock and climate change and producer views on climate issues for the beef industry and production of enteric methane. We were exposed to thoughts on enteric methane production, beef industry sustainability, the relation between methane production and performance, and other air quality issues. Of course there are a lot of different views on the subject of global climate change and what is responsible for it and that came out during the course of this seminar. 
     Why is this meeting important? Let me give you some background and you will likely see why it was necessary to confront the issue of Global Climate Change in general and the part that beef methane plays in the equation. I might add that the same time of the meeting, Denmark came out with a proposal that calls for tax on red meat – “because cattle flatulence is causing climate change and people are 'ethically obliged' to change their eating habits”. It has recommended an initial tax on beef, then expanding it to all red meats in future and possibly onto all foods depending on the impact production has on the environment. The proposal will be put forward for consideration by the government after the council voted in favor of the measure by an overwhelming majority. This looks like it will be a forgone conclusion that a GHG tax will levied on meat.
     The researchers from the think tank said proceeds from a tax on meat could be used to subsidize healthier alternatives that are less damaging to the environment, such as fruit, vegetables and tofu. Don’t think for a minute that other countries won’t follow suit… all hinged on the Paris Agreement that the USA also signed. You really think we won’t have a push for that right here in the USA?  How long do you think it will be before all of our red meat is taxed as well? There is a reason all of this is happening. I think we need a little background before we dive in. It all starts interestingly enough with the United Nations, or at the very least a flawed study put out via its Food and Agriculture Organization or commonly call FAO.
     Several years ago the United Nations floated this study that cattle alone contributed at least 18% of all greenhouse gasses and were largely responsible for global warming. The name of the report that was released in 2006 still resonates in my mind – “Livestock's Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options”. For those that are so inclined you can find it at: http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/a0701e/a0701e00.HTM.
 The problem is that the United Nationals Food and Agriculture Organization had an agenda and their report was largely criticized and ripe with errors. After several years they did state that their study was flawed. Trouble is that it was years later and the original material had a solid foothold, it was all over the internet, Vegan blogs and in people’s minds, and the damage to the livestock industry was already done. The attack on the livestock industry was immediate and brutal and we still feel the results of that “scientific study”.  Here is an example.
     Leonardo DeCaprio directed a movie that still rankles me. It was entitled “Cowspiracy” and is still frequenting the internet and especially damaging in that it is readily available on Netflix. It dovetailed nicely into Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth” and unfortunately furthered the thrust of unreasonable regulations that were proposed or levied on agriculture and continues even today. They are still pushing towards a carbon tax and even eliminating areas all across the nation that is used for grazing. You can see what I mean by going to: http://www.cowspiracy.com, You can read the “facts” that still are used daily on anti-agriculture blogs, internet sites and of course by extreme environmentalists who are focused on destroying “Factory Farms”.
The problem is that most of this is just plain wrong and has been scientifically debunked. But it still is out there.
     The United States government has also indicated that it is very concerned with greenhouse gas emissions and is trying to fulfill President Obama’s campaign promise to cut greenhouse gases 80% by 2050. It is clear that the government is and will address farming in its efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions. Those that are watching regulations and legislation know where we are headed. You most likely are very aware of the Clean Air and Water Act. You have likely been informed about the proposed dust and particulate law and of course the so called “cow fart” fiasco several years ago, and we are still fighting the Waters of the United States (WOTUS). All of this compliments of this study and the determination of the EPA.
     The sad part is that about 10 years too late, the same U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) came out with a report with data that shows that all of agriculture contributes only 7 percent of America’s greenhouse gas emissions while livestock production accounts for only 3 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. By contrast, transportation accounts for 26 percent. But who still gets the blame? Beef of course. While  you hear about greenhouse gasses, and carbon dioxide, the primary concern is methane, a potent greenhouse gas. That is where cattle come into the mix - as ruminants they belch up methane!    

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

Friday, May 20, 2016

Mindful of Our Heroes


Rep. Adrian Smith
            In recent weeks, I have had the privilege of welcoming hundreds of Third District veterans participating in hero flights to Washington, D.C. We can never adequately repay the debt we owe them, but I have been honored to express a small token of our appreciation by taking them onto the House floor and showing them around the U.S. Capitol.  
Because of their service to this country, we have the opportunity to gather and thank our military heroes in the capital city of the free world.
As I greet these brave Nebraskans, I am mindful of those who fought beside them but never came home. Each year, as we observe Memorial Day, we remember and honor all the brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve our freedom.
In the midst of the Cold War, President Ronald Reagan delivered his 1982 Memorial Day address at Arlington National Cemetery. As he said of the fallen:
“Our first obligation to them and ourselves is plain enough: The United States and the freedom for which it stands, the freedom for which they died, must endure and prosper. 
“Their lives remind us that freedom is not bought cheaply.  It has a cost; it imposes a burden. And just as they whom we commemorate were willing to sacrifice, so too must we, in a less final, less heroic way, be willing to give of ourselves.
“It is this, beyond the controversy and the congressional debate, beyond the blizzard of budget numbers and the complexity of modern weapons systems, that motivates us in our search for security and peace. War will not come again, other young men will not have to die, if we will speak honestly of the dangers that confront us and remain strong enough to meet those dangers.”
Now, in 2016, we again face a dangerous world with the rise of radical Islam and continued aggressions by countries such as Iran, Russia, and North Korea. We need an honest dialogue about ways to confront real threats to our nation.
On May 18, the House passed the National Defense Authorization Act, also known as NDAA, for Fiscal Year 2017. The bill authorizes the funding our men and women in uniform need to fulfill their missions and keep our military equipped.
President Obama vetoed last year’s NDAA, despite its passage with significant bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate. Our country cannot afford for the President to again put our troops and our national security at risk, especially in light of his mounting foreign policy failures and passivity toward both our allies and those who wish to do us harm.
The House also passed the Fiscal Year 2017 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill. This legislation provides the funding to equip military personnel, house military families, and maintain our bases and health care facilities. It also funds veterans programs, including much-needed improvements to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
As we continue to work on legislative solutions, my caseworkers are available to help any Third District veterans who need assistance with the VA. Please call my Grand Island office at 308-384-3900 to speak with my caseworkers about any issues you are facing with the agency.
Memorial Day is a dedicated time for us to honor those who gave their lives in defense of our great country. Mindful of their memory, our nation must keep its commitment to all who serve and have served by ensuring our military is fully prepared to confront the threats in our world today.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Smith Defends Constitutional Rights of Millons of Social Security Beneficiaries

Congressman Adrian Smith (R-NE) questioned Social Security Administration Inspector General Patrick O’Carroll in a Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee hearing today about the Obama administration’s proposal, included in the President’s list of executive actions in January, to report all 4.2 million Social Security beneficiaries with representative payees to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
“Today’s hearing highlighted the outdated metrics on which the Obama administration is basing its proposal to limit the Second Amendment rights of millions of Social Security beneficiaries,” Smith said. “Decades-old listings are not a reliable measure of mental capacity to own a gun today, and the Social Security Administration continues to miss deadlines to update these standards.
“Assigning a representative payee to manage one’s finances does not mean a person is violent or dangerous, and it certainly should not be grounds to revoke constitutional rights. I will continue to oppose this gun control move by the Obama administration.”

Saturday, May 14, 2016


Duane A. Lienemann
Nebraska Extension Educator
      Many of our local schools are experiencing the annual ritual called “High School Commencement” or just plain “Graduation”. As a former ag teacher and FFA advisor and now as an extension educator and 4-H leader, I can tell you that this is a bittersweet day on the calendar, as it means that another group of promising young men and women were leaving the halls of the school for hopefully bigger and brighter things. It is a big deal to organization like FFA and 4-H and the school’s extracurricular programs. It meant that these young people that you spent time and energy with would no longer be a constant in your classroom or in your life. But it also meant that a fresh crop of students would be following and that the cycle would continue. I also know as a parent that this act of severance from the home to college, armed forces or direct to the work force is both an exciting but emotional! I can only imagine what a “Senior Mother” is feeling. That “empty nest syndrome” can create both a high and a low. That being said however, I want to congratulate all of the graduating seniors and their families!
     When you think of this time of year, you think of families. One of the “families” that I enjoy is the beef family. I am proud to be associated with the farmers, ranchers, educators and everyone else that is involved in the beef industry. I think most the readers of this column probably know my passion for agriculture and in particular - animal agriculture. I have been blessed to be a part of the Nebraska tradition, the adults and youth involved in this segment of the entire agriculture picture. So it was good to hear our Governor declare May –“Beef Month!” to recognize the important role the beef community contributes to the state. Nebraska continues to rank first in the nation in cattle on feed and was second in cattle production in 2014 at $7.4 billion.  In 2015, Nebraska broke the $1 billion mark in overall beef exports for the second year in a row.  Every dollar of beef exported from Nebraska generates up to $1.42 in additional business activity in the state.
     He says in his proclamation: “Agriculture is Nebraska’s number one industry and beef is our state’s largest agricultural sector. This is a great time to celebrate beef and recognize the hard-working men, women, and families in Nebraska who continue to grow the industry throughout the beef supply chain.  Through their work, Nebraska is feeding the world.”  
     Speaking of the beef family, this last couple of weeks have been very beef oriented for me, in that I was a part of a couple of outstanding workshops/seminars involving beef. I will cover one of those this week and will then talk about the other conference in next week’s column. I was honored to be invited to the US Meat Animal Research Center for the ARS NP101 Food Animal Production stakeholder meeting. After listening and watching presentations from scientists at the Center, all I could say is wow! It is unbelievable the amount of research that is being done there for the benefit of beef and all meat animals, as well as the consumers who benefit from their work. I was impressed by the fact that they are seeking input from the industry on the grassroots level. This is refreshing to me when so much anymore is top-down directives with the rest of us having no say in so much of what critically effects our number one industry. I applaud the efforts towards that end.
      I think the lead in on the invitation to the meeting speaks volumes about their mission. “Food animal production and product consumption is increasing significantly around the world as consumers gain access to higher quality and more nutrient dense diets. This trend will continue as the world’s population grows and as animal production systems increase in efficiencies across varied environments and production systems. Animal production systems fit a unique and valuable niche in global food production by utilizing feeds and forages not appropriate for human consumption and contribute to an environmentally sustainable food supply. The United States has historically been a leading source of quality animal products and has led the world in technological development and adoption. This has enabled the United States to develop one of the most efficient animal production systems on earth. US MARC has been a vital part of that achievement.” 
     However, we now face many obstacles including the pressure to feed a projected nine billion people by 2050, making the necessity of research critically important. To remain competitive, the United States must continue to focus on increasing production efficiencies through the development and adoption of scientific technologies. Research and application of new tools in genomics, metagenomics, reproductive physiology, nutrition, molecular biology and animal health to name a few, if we are to continue our long tradition of global competitiveness and sustainability. U.S. systems of animal management and production face formidable challenges. The demands placed on the national system of food animal production by a rapidly increasing population, rising obesity, criticism, as well as demands for better nutrition and lower costs, can only be met through research. This work will harness and improve the genetic potential of food animals, increase market competitiveness, sustain small and mid-sized producers, and maintain genetic diversity while maintaining consumer confidence.
     According to the USDA-Economic Research Service, agricultural research has historically produced a remarkable return on investment, with estimates ranging from 20% to 60% annually. In other words, for every $1 invested in agricultural research $5 to as much as $20 is returned in net present value. Basic and applied research, as well as outreach, are critical to deliver the ultimate value of research. I think that this fact is important as we face uncertain times for agricultural research. This important part of our livelihood is constantly receiving undue criticism and faces the budgetary knife. I believe we need to support and fight for our science and research partners. They are critical to the future of this industry and our family!

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

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Smith Introduces Bill to Block Unilateral Regulations on Fertilizer for Farmers

Congressman Adrian Smith (R-NE) introduced H.R. 5213, the Fertilizer Access and Responsible Management (FARM) Act, today to repeal the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) interpretive memorandum which revoked the exemption for retail facilities from Process Safety Management (PSM) regulations for anhydrous ammonia.
Congressman Smith said:
“Anhydrous ammonia plays a crucial role in Nebraska agriculture as the most common source of nitrogen fertilizer for farmers.  The compliance costs of this rule would likely force small retailers to stop selling anhydrous ammonia, restricting producers’ access to this important input. 
“OSHA ignored federal statute requiring major regulatory actions to be published for public input.  Retailers and producers should be given the opportunity to voice their concerns and share their expertise through the formal rulemaking process rather than having yet another unilateral regulation forced upon them by this administration.”
Steve Nelson, president of the Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation, said:
“Congressman Smith’s efforts to stop the implementation of these misguided OSHA rules that would add millions of dollars in new costs to Nebraska anhydrous retailers, and thus Nebraska farmers, are truly appreciated.  Nebraska agriculture should not have to pay the price for new and unnecessary regulations that were predicated over an unfortunate incident that has now been determined to have occurred by a deliberate act.  Congress should now work to immediately pass this important piece of regulatory relief.”
David Briggs, president and CEO of WESTCO in Alliance and chairman of the board of the Nebraska Cooperative Council, said:
“The Nebraska Cooperative Council applauds Congressman Smith’s leadership on behalf of Nebraska’s anhydrous ammonia fertilizer retailers and agricultural producers on this issue of significant economic impact.  OSHA’s recent correspondence to Congress asking it not to interfere with enforcement of application of the PSM standard to retail anhydrous facilities while it conducts formal rulemaking requires that Congress act to stay any costly compliance and enforcement until such time as a new rule and the requirements of any new rule are known.  Nebraska’s farmer-owned cooperatives appreciate the efforts of Congressman Smith and his staff in their prompt and thoughtful response to concerns raised by the Nebraska Cooperative Council and other Nebraska agricultural interests.”
Original cosponsors of this bipartisan bill are Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-TN), and Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA).
In July 2015, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) bypassed the rulemaking process and issued an interpretive memorandum redefining regulations on anhydrous ammonia, forcing retailers to comply with the Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals (PSM) standard from which they were previously exempt.
This memorandum impacts approximately 4,800 fertilizer retailers and will cost the industry in excess of $100 million to comply.  Federal law requires any regulatory action which has an economic impact of $100 million or more to be submitted to Congress and published for public review.
The Obama administration cited a 2013 ammonium nitrate explosion at a fertilizer plant in Texas when issuing the regulatory memorandum.  This week, federal investigators announced the cause of the explosion was arson.

Saturday, May 7, 2016


Duane A. Lienemann
Nebraska Extension Educator

     First I want to wish all of our mothers a very Happy Mother’s Day. I am sure a lot of my male friends are probably scrambling to find something appropriate for their better halves. Most likely their kids are way ahead of them in that regard. I am usually in that category – waking up Sunday morning and realizing what day it is and then reacting to panic over reason. When I was teaching I had a really good reminder, in that it seemed we always had graduation on Mother’s Day. I think it was a really good thing to move it off the day we should be honoring the maternal side of the equation. 
     Of course it is bitter sweet in that when we, as men, try to thank our wives for what they do we, but also have in mind our own mothers who birthed, raised, advised and nurtured us. I am of the age where my mother has left this earthly realm and has reaped her eternal reward. That does not keep a person’s mind from thinking of the person who most likely had the most influence in your life. I would bet that I am not the only one who looks back with fondness and with awe.
      For me it is the memory of her love for her kids (she raised ten of us) and her grandchildren; her incredible patience (Job had nothing over her); her love of flowers and nature – even baby chicks and runt pigs; her ability to multi-task, long before that was ever a buzz word; her ability to make a meal out of “odds and ends” that never tasted better anywhere else; and her ability to stretch a dollar further than anyone could believe possible. Can you imagine keeping house, getting kids to school, cooking for a threshing crew, doing the wash for an army - and still finding time to be a nurse, counselor and taxi-driver? Can you imagine dealing with the squabbles, changing of hormones and all the pangs of youth growing up? She knew where everything was it seemed. It didn’t matter if it was for the kids or her “farmer” husband.
     My mother absolutely loved this time of year. Spring was her delight and she reveled in it with the starting of her gardens, be it flower or vegetable. It was not an accident I think that her middle name was May. I went with her many times to help her dig up a wild flower that she spotted along a road or in a pasture. She would transplant them to a spot by her house. She loved her God and made sure that her children would attend Church and be well versed in the bible and all the stories would go to mold her children as she would see it – in the way of her Lord. She even found time to play the piano. I can still hear those hymns that were so sweet coming from her hands positioned on the worn ivories of her upright piano. 
     Speaking of that piano, we even found out that was her hiding place for her treasures. After all, who was going to move that big piece of furniture? Music was not her only pleasure. She had several cameras, from 35 mm to Polaroid, and even a panoramic one! All so she could capture the lives of her family and friends. She had boxes and albums of pictures that I hope one day to get a chance to go through. It would have been hard to do that in earlier years as sometimes memories can be painful. But I find as I get older those memories become even more important. Oh wouldn’t she have loved the digital camera and flash drives?  I know now why she was so fastidious in that regard. She knew how important history was and is. 
     I often think how she would have loved the computer, the internet, and particularly Facebook. I think she would have been a social media giant. She loved doing genealogy and in fact I got the bug for that from her. She loved knowing our heritage and was proud of the ancestry on both sides. She loved to read and had boxes of books on all kinds of topics. She encouraged the same in all of us and it stuck with me. She even had a love for the arts, whether it be music, poetry, dance or painting, which she also tried her hand at. She even could and would help her kids with homework. Not bad for a woman who only went through 8th grade. Letters – she spend hours writing to her relatives and especially to her children when they were off to college. What is amazing is she kept carbon copies of those letters. I still have mine in a box that she left me at her death. You talk about a snapshot of the past – and in your mother’s words. It brings both laughter and tears when I read them. 
     She was so proud that her children did well in school and was exceedingly pleased and proud that we all went to college. That was so important to her and our father. Education to her was the key to life. It was if she lived out her desire for higher education through us. She took delight in the fact that I was a teacher. She always thought I should be a college professor. I only wish that she could have lived to see me get the distinction of a Full Educator at the University of Nebraska. My guess is that would have been a big deal in her eyes. She had so much respect for schools and would fight the fights of education in our state. She was a stalwart proponent of small schools and led many of a fight sticking up for rural schools. After all, all of her children were the result of a small one room schoolhouse. And if that wasn’t enough she was a tireless warrior for special needs children and people who were created a little different than the rest of us. I think most State Senators knew my mother and her passion. She was not afraid to voice her opinions. I am sure that my tendency to do that comes from her. 
     My guess is that many of you could come up with very similar stories about the attributes of your own mothers. I have not done total justice to mine. I have been blessed with some nice awards that have come my way over the years, mostly for passions that were created and cultivated in me by my mother. But those accolades don’t even come close to what my mother should have had come her way. Sometime we take our mothers for granted and we should not. We all should sit down and make notes of what they have done for us and then tell them how we appreciate them, bring them flowers, chocolates or take them out for dinner. But I would bet a big hug would be even more appreciated. If only I could give my mom a hug today! 

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

Friday, May 6, 2016

Unwavering Defense of Life

Rep. Adrian Smith


When we observe the National Day of Prayer each May, millions of Americans join together in a cornerstone of our country’s heritage – gathering freely to worship God and lift our communities, our leaders, and our great nation in prayer.
We are blessed with unparalleled religious freedom in the United States, but we must stay vigilant to protect it. Unfortunately, President Obama’s health care law continues to violate many Americans’ deeply-held beliefs regarding the right to life of the unborn. I share these convictions and will never waver in defending the sanctity of life.
Recently, I joined more than 100 Members of Congress to urge the House Appropriations Committee to include the Health Care Conscience Rights Act in the Fiscal Year 2017 funding bill.
This legislation, of which I am a cosponsor, would protect private businesses, educational institutions, and faith-based organizations from Obamacare mandates requiring employers to provide insurance coverage for drugs or devices which may lead to the destruction of developing human life. The bill’s language would also ensure no health care providers are required to provide or participate in services which contradict their religious beliefs or moral convictions.
In another letter to the Appropriations Committee chairmen, I advocated against the inclusion of any taxpayer subsidies for Planned Parenthood in the Fiscal Year 2017 funding bill. Through the appropriations process, Congress can use its constitutional power of the purse to protect taxpayers from being forced to support an organization whose practices are morally objectionable to so many Americans.
While we work to defend the sanctity of life through the legislative process, the courts remain a leading battleground. In February, I signed a congressional amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to uphold Texas law HB 2 in the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in March, and a decision is expected next month.
HB 2 requires all Texas abortion clinics to comply with the state’s health and sanitation standards for ambulatory surgical centers. To ensure women can receive hospital care if complications arise, the law also requires any Texas physician performing an abortion to have admitting privileges at a hospital within thirty miles of the abortion clinic.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld the Texas law, but the Supreme Court has stayed implementation until it reviews the case. The decision will be a crucial milestone in the abortion debate, as it will determine how abortion facilities are regulated moving forward.
If the Supreme Court strikes down HB 2, other necessary protections such as the federal ban on partial-birth abortion could be revisited and overturned. I am hopeful the lower court’s ruling will be upheld and this sensible law will stand.
As we face challenges to our convictions about the right to life for all persons, we must continue to speak out for the unborn and defend the conscience rights of Americans. Together, we can protect the sanctity of life.