Expect Debate On Water Funding And Commodity Checkoffs

Those are some of the ag-related issues that may crop up in 2013 Nebraska Legislature.

Published on: Jan 7, 2013

Nebraska's 49 state senators won't throw proposed bills into the legislative hopper until the 2013 session begin Jan. 9. It's the first session of the 103rd Nebraska Legislature, where bills not passed in the 2012 session will not carry over.

Some of the main ag and natural resources issues that could find their way into proposed legislation in 2013 were hammered out at conventions late last year. Some are familiar.

Close to the top of everyone's list is funding for water research, monitoring and various projects that are needed across Nebraska to comply with river compacts and endangered species laws and to address water shortages.

Funds for water needs in Nebraska has always fallen short, and farm organizations, natural resources districts and others in the water policy arena are asking for more financial commitment from state government to meet some of those needs.

Expect Debate On Water Funding And Commodity Checkoffs
Expect Debate On Water Funding And Commodity Checkoffs

The Legislature has received the report from a 2012 interim study on ways to pay for water projects and how to allocate future funding.

Among discussion points in the report was a dedication of a portion of the state sales tax for water funding.

Some figure any bills introduced from that report will just be staring points in 2013 for discussion on this long-running issue.

Dean Edson, executive director of the Nebraska Association of Resources Districts, says the state's 24 NRDs have a backlog of projects to address water needs. He says a listing of those needs has been presented to the Legislature.

Commodity checkoffs seem to in the news moreso in recent months, and there may be legislation in the 2013 Unicameral to examine some of those issues.

The Nebraska Corn Growers Association, at its annual meeting in Kearney in December, discussed the structure of the state's corn checkoff. There was some interest expressed in seeking the removal of checkoff administration from state government to a stand-alone entity to make it more efficient and less burdensome.

No doubt property taxes will be an issue in the 2013 Legislature. Nebraska Farm Bureau delegates last month, for instance, discussed efforts to reduce property taxes in general and to reduce the percentage of property taxes paid by agriculture. Delegates also expressed interest in looking at other ways to provide tax relief to farmers and ranchers such as removing the sales tax on farm equipment repair parts.