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By Pete Ricketts
Nebraska Governor 

Nebraska's Growth: Routed in Agriculture

 

December 15, 2021

Agriculture is the heart and soul of Nebraska.  Through the years, our farmers and ranchers have built a reputation for producing crops and livestock that are second to none.  Among U.S. states, Nebraska ranks:

#1 in agricultural cash receipts per capita

#2 in ethanol production, cattle on feed, all cattle and calves, beef exports, and commercial red meat production

#3 in corn for grain production, corn exports, and total ag cash receipts

#4 for land in farms and ranches

#5 for soybean exports, soybean production, and sugar beet production

#6 for commercial hog slaughter

#7 in hogs and pigs on farms and pork exports

That’s an impressive resume!

My vision is to grow Nebraska.  To grow Nebraska, we must grow agriculture.  Agriculture is our state’s largest industry. It supports about 1 in 4 jobs in Nebraska. 

During my time as Governor, we’ve focused on three strategies to grow Nebraska agriculture: 1) adding value to the crops and livestock we raise, 2) delivering property tax relief, and 3) growing international trade.

Value-Added Agriculture

Value-added agriculture means taking the traditional crops we grow and transforming them into products with greater economic value.  We’ve successfully grown value-added agriculture by making it attractive for food processors to invest here.  Last week, Scoular announced a $75 million expansion of the Petsource plant in Seward—just over a year after opening.  The increase in capacity will create opportunities for Nebraska farmers and ranchers to supply chicken and beef to source the facility.  Sustainable Beef recently received unanimous approvals from North Platte’s Planning Commission and Community Redevelopment Authority to move forward on its proposed beef packing plant.  It plans to employ 875 Nebraskans and have capacity to process 1,500 head of cattle per day.  In August, Danish firm Novozymes announced a $300 million investment in increase protein production in Blair.

We’re also promoting biofuels to grow Nebraska through value-added agriculture.  Ethanol saves drivers money at the pump and keeps the air clean by cutting toxic emissions.  Ethanol also creates opportunities for Nebraska’s farm families by growing demand for the crops they cultivate.  Over 30% of the corn grown in our state goes to our ethanol industry.

The State has given strong support to Nebraska’s biofuels industry in recent years.  We launched an innovative pilot program to demonstrate that E30 fuel is safe and reliable to use in regular vehicles.  We used the Coronavirus Relief Fund to support ethanol producers when demand for fuel plummeted in the early stage of the coronavirus pandemic.  We signed legislation earlier this year to allow for the geologic storage of carbon dioxide.  Carbon sequestration has potential to help the ethanol industry achieve wheel to well emissions in regular vehicles that are just as clean—if not cleaner—than those involved in making and charging electric vehicles.

Property Tax Relief

To grow agriculture, we need to drive down property taxes and keep them low.  High property taxes threaten the financial health of our family farms and ranches.  When ag producers have difficulty making ends meet, it not only affects our rural communities but also impacts our entire economy.  What happens in agriculture affects all of Nebraska.

We’ve controlled spending at the State to about 2.5% per year.  At the same time, we’ve successfully grown Nebraska.  This growth has resulted in State revenues far exceeding expectations.  In October, the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board raised revenue projections by a combined $903 million for fiscal years 2022 and 2023.  This is great news because the Refundable Income Tax Credit created in 2020 (LB1107) is set to grow as tax revenues exceed projections.  Last year, the credit offset 6% of local school property taxes.  This year, the credit will increase to offset more than 25% of your local school property taxes.  Taxpayers will receive this credit when they file their state income taxes in 2022. 

We’ve also more than doubled the Property Tax Credit Relief Fund since 2015, increasing it from $140 million to $300 million this year.  It will rise again next year to $313 million.  In total, the State is delivering over $1.9 billion of direct property tax relief over the next two years—a historic amount.

International Trade

Another way we’re growing agriculture is by increasing access to international markets.  Ninety-five percent of the world’s population lives beyond America’s borders.  We need to reach these customers to keep our ag industry strong for the next generation. 

Nebraska exports about $10 billion of products annually, and well over half of these are ag products.  Growing trade by promoting Nebraska’s premium ag products has been a priority for me as Governor.  I have led numerous trade missions while in office, most recently to Germany last month.  Travel restrictions have limited our ability to go on trade missions since the pandemic began. 

Even so, our economic development team has continued to build relationships with international partners. 

In 2021, we’ve held virtual briefings with the U.S. embassies of Israel, Malaysia, Mexico, and South Korea to explore opportunities in those markets.  For example, in Mexico we’re looking to make the most of the advantageous trade terms of the USMCA.  This is the first full year under USMCA, and U.S. ag exports to Mexico are up over 40% year-to-date compared to 2020.  As travel opens up, we’ll take more trade missions to promote Nebraska’s world-class ag products.

Nebraska’s growth as a state is rooted in agriculture.  If you have questions about the work we’re doing to grow our top industry, email me at [email protected] or call 402-471-2244.  We’ll continue to give full support to the farmers, ranchers, feeders, and others who’ve developed Nebraska into a global leader in agriculture.

 

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