Support for small meat processors, rural broadband highlight legislative sessions

Farm and Food
Small Towns

Kate Hansen and Heidi Kolbeck-Urlacher contributed to this blog.

During their 2022 sessions, the Nebraska and Iowa legislatures continued to show their support for small meat processors, following up on legislation passed in 2021 with the passage of bills that create new programs and provide funding to increase capacity and address workforce issues. Meanwhile, South Dakota lawmakers approved bills addressing solar energy facilities, rural broadband, and the state’s home-processed foods law.

Here’s a look at this year’s sessions.

Nebraska

The Center for Rural Affairs was instrumental in passing three bills this year, including securing funding from the state’s allotment of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) recovery funds.

As part of its ARPA appropriations bill, Legislative Bill (LB) 1014, the Legislature approved $10 million for the Independent Processor Assistance Program, which follows up on a commitment made in 2021, when LB 324 was unanimously approved. The program will provide financial assistance to small meat processors across the state for buildings, equipment, technology, and workforce training. The funding request was offered as part of LB 755.

In passing its general budget bill, LB 1012, the Legislature increased funding made available to the Microenterprise Assistance Program from $2 million to $3 million. The change, originally proposed under LB 759, ensures that community lenders, such as the Center, can continue to provide needed loans and no-cost technical assistance to entrepreneurs to start or grow their businesses. The size of loans these community lenders can make also increased—from $100,000 to $150,000.

Iowa

Two measures supporting Iowa’s small meat processors were successful. First, lawmakers unanimously passed House File (HF) 2470, which will put into motion recommendations from the Artisanal Butchery Task Force created by the Legislature in 2021. Among other initiatives, the bill will create the framework for a one-year community college certificate program on artisanal butchery. Legislators also passed HF 2564, an appropriations package that included $1 million for the Butchery Innovation and Revitalization Fund, a grant program established in 2021. This year’s funding is an increase of $250,000.

The Legislature also made good on a promise to Iowans investing in residential solar energy systems. Senate File (SF) 2367, a tax bill that passed the Legislature on May 23, included components that will pay out the residential waitlist of the Solar Energy Systems Tax Credit and extend the application deadline for projects completed last year to June 30. This legislation achieved the same goals the Center strongly supported in HF 2556 and SF 2326 for much of the session.

South Dakota

Energy policy is one of the Center’s priorities in South Dakota. The Legislature passed Senate Bill (SB) 36, which allows the Public Utilities Commission to require financial security for solar decommissioning, ensuring landowners don’t get stuck with decommissioning costs. SB 80 also passed, exempting electric vehicle charging stations from the definition of utility, which will simplify the process for electric vehicle charging station buildout across the state.

Additionally during the session, the Center offered written testimony in support of SB 55 and House Bill (HB) 1322, which were both approved.

SB 55 appropriated $50 million dollars in federal fund expenditure to be used for grants for the continued expansion of broadband infrastructure. The funds will help the state replace and recover a large portion of the $75 million that was allocated from general funds last year.

HB 1322 amends the state’s “home-processed foods law,” which allows for the sale of shelf-stable baked and canned goods without a license. Among other changes, the bill allows for a broader range of products to be sold under the law and provides a low-cost food safety training program for producers to sell the full range of products outlined under the bill.

Featured photo: Small meat processors from across Nebraska joined Sen. Tom Brandt and Center staff to testify in support of Legislative Bill 755 during a legislative hearing in February.  |  Photo by Center staff