By Governor Pete Ricketts
March 20, 2017
The Governor’s official photo is available here.
The spotlight will be on Nebraska’s number one industry this week as Nebraskans across the state celebrate National Ag Week. I’ll be joining Nebraskans from Scottsbluff to Omaha at 11 events over three days to highlight how our state’s number one industry continues to grow Nebraska. While commodity prices in many markets are lagging, there are many reasons to be optimistic about agriculture’s future in Nebraska.
Some may think growing agriculture only matters to our farm and ranch families, however, this $23 billion industry has a big economic impact on every part of our state. According to the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, one in four jobs in Nebraska are agriculture-related. In addition to our state’s 48,700 farms, ag-related industries employ Nebraskans who manufacture irrigation equipment in Hastings, process food in Omaha, and conduct research at the University in Lincoln among many other occupations.
Nebraska’s commodity production leads nationally in numerous categories. In 2016, Nebraska ranked number one among all states for red meat production, cattle on feed, and Great Northern beans. We rank second for our total number of cattle and calves, ethanol production, and pinto beans. We are third in the nation for corn for grain production and corn exports.
These successes did not happen by accident – they happened because Nebraskans worked together to grow agriculture. There are several successes over the past year we’ll be celebrating this week. In 2016, six more counties received Livestock Friendly County designations, sending the message they are open to new livestock operations. We cut red tape for ag producers with a new vehicle designation allowing them to move equipment without additional licensing. In 2015, the Legislature and I put in place a new Livestock Siting Matrix to streamline the siting process for new projects. Just in the last few months, Dodge County became the first county to adopt this matrix. The county recently welcomed a new $1 billion investment from Costco, which is locating a new chicken processing plant in Fremont. This investment alone is equivalent to approximately one percent of our state’s GDP!
Trade has been key to growing agriculture in Nebraska. Over the past two years, we have led successful trade missions to the European Union, Japan, and China, and signed a new $400 million trade agreement with Taiwan. This last week, I hosted my annual Governor’s Ag Conference where trade was front and center in the discussion. Many ag producers are concerned about President Trump’s desire to renegotiate trade deals, which have helped open up markets for Nebraska’s commodities around the world. In the opening days of the Trump Administration, I have urged the President to protect Nebraska agriculture, and to move quickly to negotiate trade deals favorable to Nebraska.
Nebraska’s ag producers have received good news from Washington recently. Before President Trump took office, Nebraska was suing the federal government over burdensome regulations placed on our ag producers. Shortly after President Trump was sworn in, he took swift action to roll back the Waters of the U.S., an onerous rule that threatened to hurt Nebraska’s farm and ranch families. Rolling back this rule means Nebraska’s ag producers will retain more control over their ability to farm and ranch without interference from federal regulators. The President has pledged to cut more red tape, and I am hopeful he will continue to do away with unnecessary regulations.
Tax reform will also help grow agriculture. Over the last couple of years, the Legislature and I have worked to deliver meaningful property tax relief for Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers. We have delivered over $400 million in direct property tax relief with an additional $40 million for our ag producers over the next two years. I am currently working with senators to change the way we value ag land for taxation purposes. Today, we value ag land based on market sales. With the Agricultural Valuation Fairness Act, we would move to an income potential valuation system, which will help taxes track more closely with land values.
Throughout National Ag Week, I will be visiting with Nebraskans about how we can work together to grow agriculture. We must continue to grow agriculture to grow Nebraska, so the Good Life continues to provide the great opportunities the next generation is seeking. If you have any thoughts you would like to share on the state of agriculture in Nebraska, I hope you will contact my office by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 402-471-2244. We look forward to hearing from you!