The Nebraska Farm Bureau says decisions at the county level hold state agriculture back. The organization suggests cow-calf operations, hog production, dairy, and poultry could all expand in Nebraska if individual expansion proposals were greeted more favorably by county officials.
Nebraska Association of County Officials Executive Director Larry Dix says too often the response from neighbors to a proposed farm expansion is: not in my back yard.
“I know I live out in the country but, ‘Oh, by the way, I really don’t want agriculture next door to me,’” Dix tells reporters during a conference call.
Sen. Dan Watermeier of Syracuse proposes LB 106 as a solution to better evaluate proposals by livestock operations to expand; claiming it would base the evaluations on more scientific and less emotional reasoning.
The measure is an outgrowth of discussions livestock groups have been having with county officials to improve the local permitting process. The result is a proposal to create a matrix to evaluate proposals, removing some of the subjectivity in the approval process.
Nebraska Farm Bureau First Vice President Mark McHargue says he faced withering opposition 10 years ago to his proposed expansion of his pork operation near Central City when neighbors inflamed prejudices against it.
“I consider myself a fairly educated person. We run a multi-million dollar business; multi-generational, vice president of the largest farm organization in Nebraska,” McHargue says. “And this is one of the areas that gave me some of the most anxiety as a farmer that I have had in my career.”
Under LB 106, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture would create an assessment matrix for county officials to use to thoroughly evaluate proposed farm expansions. The matrix would take into consideration the type of livestock operation that seeks expansion, its size, how it proposes to manage manure, and the impact on local communities.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [1 min.]