State Agriculture Director Greg Ibach has been confirmed by the Unicameral, but only after grievances were aired over how the department has handled so-called puppy mills.
Ibach, first appointed to the position by Gov. Dave Heineman, has served since 2005. Gov. Pete Ricketts re-appointed him.
Problems surfaced during the confirmation hearings before the legislature’s Agriculture Committee. Though solidly supported by the agricultural community, Ibach was harshly criticized by animal welfare organizations. They complained Ibach hasn’t done enough to address the poor conditions under which some commercial dog and cat breeders operate in Nebraska.
Criticism zeroed in on one case in particular.
Lancaster County Judge Timothy Phillips forced the shutdown of a dog breeding operation run by Julia Hudson in Malcolm. Hudson continued to operate her kennel even after failing four state inspections in a row. Finally, the Lancaster County Attorney’s Office brought charges against her.
Judge Phillips described conditions at the operation as “an animal Auschwitz.”
It was a theme picked up by Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, who lashed out at Ibach during legislative floor debate on his nomination.
“I put him in the category with Adolf Eichmann, who was the Nazi whose job it was to carry out the Final Solution,” Chambers stated.
Others used less stark terms, but joined in the criticism of the Agriculture Department, questioning why it hasn’t responded more forcefully to complaints about commercial pet breeders.
Agriculture Committee Chairman, Sen. Jerry Johnson of Wahoo, told colleagues his committee will make sure the department addresses the problem.
“It was important to me when the Nebraska Humane Society came in, recognized where the department has been, but recognizing the fact that there has been a change in attitude,” Johnson told fellow senators in his closing remarks recommending Ibach be confirmed.
The Unicameral voted 29-to-2 in favor of confirmation.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]