Since President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. was sworn into office in January, our country has seen a dramatic shift in national policy and how the federal government treats states. From tax hikes to new regulations, the Biden-Harris Administration has charted a more liberal course than the Trump Administration. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been traveling the state highlighting the threat that President Biden’s 30 x 30 plan poses to Nebraska, but that isn’t the only issue of concern at the federal level. There are several different issues on the horizon that could affect Nebraska’s ag economy. I’ll briefly highlight a few of them here.
Meat Processing Investigation: The meat processing industry has been consolidating for years. This has left producers with very limited options when marketing their cattle. In light of this, there have been questions about pricing in the industry. While processors are making about $900 a head, I am concerned that high prices paid on the boxed beef side have not always translated into higher prices paid to producers. Over the last several years, the producers’ share of profits has declined, while the price of fresh beef has jumped. In May 2020, President Trump tasked the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate the business practices of our nation’s four largest meat processors. At that time, the DOJ’s anti-trust division began looking into allegations of anti-competitive practices in the beef industry. Last month, I joined five other Governors in sending a letter to DOJ seeking an update on its investigation. It has now been over a year since DOJ began its probe. Both livestock producers and consumers deserve to know the status of the investigation. The DOJ also needs to prioritize its work to ensure fairness for producers and consumers and to restore trust within the cattle industry. You can read the full letter at www.governor.nebraska.gov.
Renewable Fuel Standard: Nebraska is the second largest ethanol producing state in the nation. Recently, the ethanol industry has faced some uncertainty. The Biden-Harris Administration has put an increasing focus on electric vehicles, which threatens the existence of combustion engines and consequently both the oil and ethanol industries. In February, we received some good news when the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the ethanol industry in regards to blending requirements for oil refineries. In the coming months, we can expect the Biden Administration to issue Renewable Volume Obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). It is critical that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforce a robust RFS as promised by Congress.
Stop 30 x 30: As I referenced earlier, I have been hosting a series of town halls across the state to help Nebraskans understand what they can do to push back on President Biden’s plan to conserve 30% of the nation’s land and water by 2030. This radical land grab would conserve an area the size of the State of Nebraska each year for the next nine years, or an area twice the size of Texas by 2030. Right now, 97% of the land in Nebraska is privately owned. Setting aside 30% would drive up property taxes, reduce the land available for agricultural development, and would be devastating for our small towns and rural communities. Many counties have been speaking out by passing resolutions opposing 30 x 30. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be in Gordon, Pickrell, and York for town halls. You can learn more about these events and how you can get involved at my website or by visiting https://americanstewards.us/.
Tax Policy: In a major reversal from the Trump Administration, the Biden Administration has floated a wide variety of tax hike proposals over the past several weeks. Some of these have proven so unpopular that they have reversed course on them very quickly. In March, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg briefly considered taxing vehicles based on miles traveled before ruling out such an approach. Another troubling proposal in Congress would eliminate the stepped-up basis and tax capital gains at death. This would be especially damaging to our farm and ranch families that want to pass their family operation on to the next generation. The Nebraska Farm Bureau and Nebraska State Chamber are working to fight against this bad tax policy. Learn more about this important issue by visiting https://nebraskansfortaxtruth.org/.
Waters of the United States (WOTUS): Under the Obama Administration, the EPA overstepped its legal authority by attempting to expand the definition of “waters of the United States.” Previously, the EPA unlawfully tried to expand its oversight of everything from small ponds to puddles formed from runoff at construction sites. Last week, the Biden Administration pledged to renew this effort to exert more federal control over the nation’s water resources. When they tried this in the past, the State of Nebraska successfully sued the Obama Administration and then celebrated when the Trump Administration rolled back the overreaching rule. The Biden-Harris Administration is renewing efforts to expand federal control, and we will fight back again if needed. Nebraska will be watching the federal government closely and will do all we can to protect our land and water from Washington, D.C. overreach.
If you have questions about steps the State is taking to push back on the Biden-Harris Administration, please contact me at [email protected] or 402-471-2244. Together, we can ensure that federal overreach doesn’t change our way of life.