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Property tax reform on mind of corn growers

January 23, 2019

Property tax reform was on the mind of many attending Monday’s Elkhorn Valley Corn Growers annual meeting and legislative update in Norfolk.

And so was the federal government shutdown that continues to linger.

Those in attendance heard from several individuals who could provide updates and information on those and other topics.

At the state level, many ag producers and the state senators who represent them are focused on finding a way to pass property tax reform.

Sen. Jim Scheer of Norfolk said he and many of his colleagues have been exploring property tax solutions for years now, especially for the sake of farmers.

Dan Wesley of Morse Bluff, a past president of the state corn growers association, said the association is actively lobbying the Legislature for property tax reform. The corn growers — along with a number of other organizations from the agricultural community — are working together to draft a property tax bill that will be introduced by Sen. Curt Friesen of Henderson.

“The big topic is property taxes, and we’re all coming together to work for a solution,” Wesley said.

The bill is designed to provide fair tax relief for everyone, Wesley said, though he couldn’t provide specifics until it is officially introduced.

Scheer said the perspectives on property taxes are wide ranging, and he expressed frustration that some in the Legislature haven’t really understood the effect on farmers.

“There were senators who said, ‘If they can’t afford the taxes, sell the land and get out of farming.’ That was their solution and they were dead serious,” Scheer said.

Scheer also commented on potential new tax sources, particularly internet sales tax.

“I just don’t think there’s hundreds of millions of dollars to collect,” Scheer said. “There may be 20 or 30 million, but that’s just change compared to billions. That pays the tip, not the whole dinner.”

The federal government shutdown was also a topic of concern at Monday’s meeting.

Lee Klein of Norfolk, who works for the office of U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, said the shutdown is a “confusing mess” with no real end in sight.

“It’s at an impasse,” Klein said. “We don’t know which way it’s going.”

Klein said Congress is remaining in session to attempt to negotiate a solution.

Klein said that before the shutdown, Congress passed the latest federal farm bill, a sweeping package that sets funding for a number of agricultural programs run by the federal government. A new farm bill is typically drafted every four years.

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