Weekly Column

USDA ignored public support of Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule

The Center for Rural Affairs stands for rural communities, and we, too, believe that an essential foundation for vital rural communities consists of a healthy economy and diverse farming models.

Many of the policies we support – organic agriculture, Value-Added Producer Grants, rural microloans – we chose to fight for because they make space for farmers and ranchers to access new or alternative income streams.

We are concerned that some of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) recent actions directly undermine this vision, by the removal of several rules.

Working lands and crop insurance could offer conservation opportunities in the farm bill

Many issues surrounding conservation are decided at the time of farm bill renewal.

Working lands conservation programs in the farm bill offer an important opportunity for farmers and ranchers to increase stewardship on their land without impacting their bottom lines. For example, the Conservation Stewardship Program and the Environmental Quality Incentive Program support farmers in implementing new conservation practices, and the Conservation Reserve Program offers valuable options for enrolling marginally productive lands.

Business Planning 101

The most effective development strategy for rural communities is small entrepreneurship – locally-owned and operated small businesses.

The first step in creating a small business is having a great idea. Next is writing a good business plan to help you make superior business decisions. Business plans are also crucial to obtain financing.

Think of a business plan as a resume for your business that should be written down and formalized. In general, it contains:

A once-in-a-generation opportunity for tax reform and education funding 

LB 1084, Sen. Tom Briese’s combined property tax relief and school funding bill, is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. Let me explain this bold statement.

In the mid-1960s, two generations ago, the state of Nebraska ended statewide property tax. At about the same time, the state began collecting both sales and income taxes. These were all bold moves for generating income for the state.

Nebraska's economy has evolved – our tax code has not

While Nebraska’s economy remains reliant upon agriculture, the broader economy, following national trends, has moved away from a dependence on manufacturing and goods to knowledge and service. Nebraska’s tax code does not reflect that decades long trend.

The prior economic mix meant the state did not need to tax seldom-used service. Despite this shift, sales tax exemptions for services, such as dry cleaning and landscaping, remain in the state’s tax code. This array of exemptions has imbalanced the three legged tax stool, leaving it leaning heavily upon property taxes.

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