Fixemer: Legislature’s property tax plan should support next generation of farmers

In every town you’ll find people doing their best to give back to their communities, providing support for the next generation, and leading by example so that others can succeed down the line. These are the people our communities need to thrive and who are invaluable to the continued health of rural America. Jerry Fixemer is one of those people.

Jerry is a retired farmer who has dedicated the past few decades to supporting and mentoring beginning farmers near his hometown of Strang, Nebraska. Jerry cares deeply about the young farmers he mentors, and feels that rising property taxes in Nebraska will slowly choke beginning farmers out of the industry.

For Jerry, these taxes are more about the next generation of beginning farmers and less about himself. As the outdated tax framework in Nebraska places a greater reliance on property taxes to pay for education and county services, he says it has put a bind on his tenants.

“They’re good people, but it’s a tough ball game out there, and it doesn’t seem like our senators are listening,” Jerry said.

The state’s reliance on property taxes has burdened residential and agricultural property owners and pitted them against our school systems. Rather than relieving the problem through real and comprehensive tax reform, our legislature has continued to push the problem down the line at the cost of rural Nebraskans and their communities.

After the abnormally dry summer and wet autumn pushed back harvest for most of southeastern Nebraska, many of the families Jerry is helping are worried they may not be able to afford their property taxes this year.

Jerry worries that if we have another year like this, many beginning farmers will be forced under.

“Our government needs to support young farmers,” Jerry said. “If we lose them, we lose a whole generation.”

In the absence of significant legislative change, Jerry believes that the need for rural communities to work together and support each other will only continue to grow.

This legislative session, we have the chance to make a difference and support young farmers before things get worse. If Nebraska’s Legislature doesn’t act, Jerry worries that the next generation of Nebraska farmers won’t be able to take root.