There’s growing fear state senators are plotting to “raid” the Nebraska Brand Committee’s coffers to help balance the state budget.
Troy Stowater, president of the Nebraska Cattlemen Association, says the Brand Committee is self-funded through producer fees, not taxes. He says if lawmakers take Brand Committee funds, it will exhaust resources.
“Appropriations tried to appropriate a half-million dollars from the Brand Committee’s cash reserves,” Stowater says. “They do have adequate cash reserves at this time. Throughout the year, this is their peak and as they head into August, the amount they were considering appropriating left them basically with no cash reserves.”
He says it’s not right for the legislature to take those funds that were collected as fees.
“Initially, it was a half-million dollars they were trying to grab,” Stowater says. “They reduced that by $400,000 down to $100,000. A dollar is too much. If they took, $100,000, could they function? Yeah, but it sets a dangerous, dangerous, dangerous precedent. What it says is, all of you agencies out here, operate with no cash reserves because you never know on a rainy day when somebody’s going to come along and sweep you.”
Debate on the budget is expected to begin today and Stowater says his group will be making its case at the Unicameral.
“We’re going to be on top of it,” Stowater says. “Unfortunately, these things, unless you have somebody whispering in your ear, you don’t know (the funds) have been appropriated. We’re fortunate that they said hey, somebody’s trying to tap into those dollars.”
Stowater says depending on the amount taken from Brand Committee funds, the agency might not be able to meet its financial obligations and stay in compliance with current Nebraska brand laws.
By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton