Farmers gather in Grand Island for Nebraska Ag Classic
By Jennifer M. Latzke
Water, taxes and the future of a farm bill from Congress topped the list of concerns for wheat, sorghum, corn and soybean farmers attending the 2012 Nebraska Ag Classic, Dec. 12, in Grand Island, Neb.
The morning kicked off with annual meetings of the state grower groups for corn, soybean and sorghum. During lunch, the presidents of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, Nebraska Grain Sorghum Producers Association, Nebraska Soybean Association and the Nebraska Wheat Growers Association spoke about the issues their respective organizations were concerned with for 2013.
NCGA outgoing President Carl Sousek, Prague, said water cropped up as a major issue in the association's morning policy meeting. "Water is always a big deal in Nebraska, but there's been a concern over the major land purchases out in Lincoln County and our members discussed it in depth," Sousek said. "We wrote a resolution that says the corn growers are opposed to large-scale purchases of land with the intent of diverting the water for other uses."
The issue of water was also a concern for the soybean growers, according to NSA President Geoff Ruth, Rising City. "We had a member talk to us about the Department of Reclamations diverting water from the Missouri River at its source point and diverting it to California and more water deficient states," he said. "We put in a resolution to the effect saying we're not in favor of any diversion of water from the Missouri River."
Ruth said his association also discussed the state's inheritance tax, which Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman and some state legislators are looking into repealing.
Unlike an estate tax, the inheritance tax is charged against the shares of certain beneficiaries of the state and on a scale according to the beneficiary's familial relationship to the deceased. In Nebraska immediate relatives are taxed at one percent; remote relatives at 13 percent; and other transferees are taxed at 18 percent. And, there are of course several exemptions. With an aging population of farmers and property that can be subject to the inheritance tax paid by out-of-state beneficiaries, this tax could be a windfall for some sparsely populated counties.
"For many counties this is a big issue," he said. "This is a sum of money that they can use in their counties for projects. If they take it away, it creates issues." While other organizations in the state have policy in place supporting the state's inheritance tax, the soybean growers are standing firm that they seek its elimination.
"We stand firm on eliminating it, but we want language in place that any lost revenues be replaced by state dollars, rather than an increase in property taxes," Ruth said. "We aren't asking for a property tax increase, but for the state to contribute to these counties as they did before."
NGSPA President Don Bloss said his organization is one of those that discussed the inheritance tax and adjusted its resolutions to support its continuation. For some counties, he explained, the inheritance tax can be up to three percent of their budgets. "Some counties have already reached their levy limits and they have no more room to raise their property taxes to replace the loss of this inheritance tax," he added.
NWGA President Dayton Christensen, Big Springs, said Nebraska wheat growers are looking forward to increased research projects and educational efforts with the adjusted state wheat checkoff. "In the past year, and in the last two decades, we've had decreased wheat acres," he said. "We can't afford to give up research projects, we just can't stop them, especially with biotech research and a biotech wheat around the corner. And, we also have to educate the public on the importance of wheat in our diet." He added the wheat growers are using their new mobile baking lab for educational outreach at several events across the state, including the state fair, Husker Harvest Days, and the Triumph of Ag Expo.
Other speakers for the day included Alan Brugler, with Brugler Marketing and Management to discuss the future of grain markets and Greg Hollingsead and Lindsay Kilgore, with the Department of Homeland Security to talk about the "See Something, Say Something" public outreach program to combat terrorism. The day wrapped up with presentations by Brad Lubben, Extension assistant professor and public policy specialist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Mark Edge, of Monsanto on DroughtGard hybrids.
Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or firstname.lastname@example.org.