Celebrate Nebraska Agricutlure
By Governor Pete Ricketts
It is National Ag Week in Nebraska, and we are celebrating our state’s number one industry. This week, the Department of Agriculture and I will be visiting with some of the farm families and ranchers who are building opportunity in communities across our state and growing the food that helps feed the world.
Nebraska’s dominance in agriculture is reflected in our national rankings. We are number one for cattle on feed, popcorn, and Great Northern Beans. Number two in cattle and calves, ethanol production, and hay production. Number three in corn for grain production and cash receipts from all livestock and products as well as fourth in cash receipts generated from all farm commodities. And we are fifth for soybean production.
This past year, ag-related projects helped bring home Nebraska’s third consecutive award for the most economic development projects per capita in the nation. For example, Michael Foods invested $150 million at their poultry operation in Bloomfield. Veramaris is investing $200 million in Blair to produce algae oil for other biotechnology projects.
These are just a few examples of how dominant agriculture is in Nebraska’s economy. You will often hear me say that to grow Nebraska we must grow agriculture. To that end, my team is working on three major priorities: Cutting property taxes, expanding trade, and increasing value-added livestock production.
Cutting property taxes is my top priority. Over the last four years, the Legislature and I have worked together to increase the amount of direct property tax relief by 60 percent. This year, I have three proposals: The first would increase direct property tax relief to $275 million annually, or almost double when I started as Governor. Second, I have recommended setting a minimum floor of $275 million in law for the Property Tax Credit Relief Fund. Third, I have proposed a cap to limit how much property taxes can go up each year. Since 1980, property taxes have gone up five percent annually. If this cap had been in place, property taxes would be roughly half of what they are today.
As we work on cutting taxes, it is important that we bring rural and urban Nebraska together to control spending. Some Senators have suggested raising the sales tax, putting new sales taxes in place, or giving more money to local government. These ideas will not ultimately solve the problem. These approaches incentivize more spending that has fueled high property taxes for decades. To solve the problem, the Legislature will need to cap property tax increases, provide direct relief, and incentivize fiscal responsibility.
International trade missions are also key to growing agriculture. With 95 percent of the world’s population living outside the United States, international trade missions are key to opening markets for Nebraska’s quality products. Over the last four years, I have led trade missions to Japan twice, China twice, Mexico twice, Canada, and the European Union. I will be leading two more trade missions this year. The results of Nebraska’s work to promote our products can be seen in the numbers. For example, between 2016 and 2018, beef exports from Nebraska grew 27 percent and pork exports from Nebraska grew 17 percent. Furthermore, we will be pushing for approval of the United States-Canada-Mexico Agreement and the new trade deal President Trump has secured with South Korea.
Finally, we must continue to expand value-added agriculture. Livestock development adds value to the billions of bushels of quality grains our farmers produce each year. In 2018, we added six Livestock Friendly Counties, showing the public that these counties support livestock development and are open for business. Additionally, Hall County joined Dodge and Merrick Counties as the third county in the state to adopt the Livestock Siting Assessment Matrix to bring greater predictability to decisions on livestock siting applications. These programs help attract great opportunities like the Costco poultry project. Costco investment is helping 125 farm families put up poultry barns, creating opportunity for the next generation of farmers.
Biofuels also play a critical role in the state’s agriculture industry. Nebraska is the second-largest producer of ethanol in the country. The synergistic relationship between corn, ethanol, and livestock encourages the success of all three industries. We are looking forward to a rule from the Environmental Protection Agency by the summer driving season to allow for year-round sales of E15. This will give Nebraska ethanol producers more opportunities to produce and sell this cheaper and cleaner fuel.
As we continue to grow Nebraska, we will work to grow Nebraska agriculture by cutting property taxes, increasing international trade, and expanding opportunities in value-added agriculture. If you have ideas on how to grow agricult