New legislation provides support for small meat processors, rural broadband improvements

Farm and Food
Small Towns

Cody Smith and Heidi Kolbeck-Urlacher contributed to this blog.

The passage of bills supporting small meat processors and livestock producers was a common theme as the 2021 legislative sessions in Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota came to an end. Lawmakers in all three states approved new legislation and programs aimed at helping producers and processors clear obstacles exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. They also addressed rural broadband issues, another need heightened by the global pandemic.

Here’s a look back at this year’s sessions:

Nebraska

The 2021 Nebraska legislative session was a successful one for the Center, with many of our priority bills passed. Chief among these were Legislative Bill (LB) 324, which makes it easier for consumers to buy meat from livestock farmers and supports local, independent meat processors. 

Another success was LB 366, a bill the Center developed in partnership with Sen. Tom Briese, to expand the Microenterprise Tax Credit Program by extending it for 10 years and increasing the size of the credit. This is the state’s only incentive program targeted specifically to businesses with five or fewer full-time equivalent employees.

Finally, LB 108, a bill to improve the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program so beneficiaries don’t lose their assistance before making enough to replace it, overcame a veto to become law on May 26. Further successes were seen with the establishment of a state Farm to School Network, an extension to the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit, and improving high-speed rural broadband. We are grateful for our Nebraska supporters, whose input was crucial to such a positive session.

Iowa

While many challenges faced by rural Iowans remain unaddressed, the Center is proud of the work we have done together to achieve more investments in rural communities.

This session, our supporters sent 165 emails to state lawmakers in support of solar energy, small meat processors, and water quality. There were also 20 messages of support from small meat lockers, farmers, and landowners in favor of House File 857, which included an amendment by the Center to target new state resources to small meat processors that employ fewer than 50 people.

Additionally, more than a dozen solar customers and advocates met with or called their legislators to advocate for House File 221 to fix the Iowa Solar Tax Credit.

By the session’s end, the support helped secure an investment of $750,000 for small meat processors, $100 million in rural broadband expansion, the granting of more tools to county officials to address flooding concerns, and expanding options for livestock producers to reduce their environmental footprint.

South Dakota

South Dakota’s Legislature took up several of the same topics we engaged with in Nebraska and Iowa.

The Center supported Senate Bill 34, which allocated funding to expand rural broadband access in the state. The final version of the bill passed with an allocation of $75 million and another $25 million through CARES Act funding.

We also supported House Bill 1040, which appropriated $5 million to create a grant program for small meat processors to expand their operations. The bill was tabled at the request of the South Dakota Department of Agriculture after Gov. Kristi Noem approved the use of coronavirus relief funds to support the program. The Department of Agriculture has already rolled out the grants program, and the deadline for applications was May 1.