Weekly Column

Energy efficiency can help rural families save money

Families below the poverty line spend 8 percent of their income on electricity, a much larger proportion than higher income families, according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.

And in rural areas, 17.7 percent of families live below the poverty line, as noted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Energy efficiency provides an affordable way to decrease power consumption and electric bills. Developing local renewable energy generation also keeps hard-earned dollars in the state and brings new economic development to rural communities.

What if the workers owned it?

The owners of a mid-sized manufacturing plant in a nearby small town were ready to retire, but no one in the next generation was interested in taking over.

The plant was sold to an out-of-state buyer with no local ties. The business was profitable, but the new owners chose to merge operations and close the local plant.

The story is familiar in small towns. Is there an alternative? I think so. Worker-owned co-ops and employee stock ownership plans could offer another path forward for these businesses.

USDA comment period extended for three Farmer Fair Practice Rules

There is still time to comment on three “Farmer Fair Practice Rules” introduced by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in December. The comment period has been extended to March 24.

The interim and proposed rules level the playing field and would create much needed protections for poultry and livestock producers. Provisions include:

Allowing producers to protect their rights without having to prove that a processor’s actions hurt the entire livestock industry.

Ask your insurance agent about signing up for Whole Farm Revenue Protection

Many farmers rely on crop insurance to help manage the risks of farming. Crop insurance is known for covering major commodity crops, however, there’s a new crop insurance policy that expands what commodities farmers can insure.

The policy is called Whole Farm Revenue Protection. While not yet well-known, Whole Farm is a great new tool for risk management. It insures the revenue of an entire operation and will cover crops and livestock that were uninsurable before. This can be valuable to farmers and ranchers who plant organic wheat or raise livestock.

Proposal to cut income taxes misguided

In the face of a budget shortfall, some political leaders in Lincoln are clamoring to cut income taxes for the wealthiest Nebraskans.

The move would compound our real challenge. It’s property taxes that Nebraskans are asking lawmakers to look at.

The Center for Rural Affairs has long held that state revenue should be balanced among property, sales and income tax. Today, property tax accounts for 36 percent of revenue; sales tax, 30 percent; and income tax, just 26 percent.

Income tax is already the shortest of the three revenue legs.

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