It is well known that agriculture is Nebraska’s top industry and the backbone of our economy. Even through extreme weather and low commodity prices, our farmers and ranchers have shown remarkable resilience in recent months and years. To help our ag producers grow and thrive, it is important that we build on our strengths. To that end, we have been working to grow agriculture by adding value to our quality ag products, delivering property tax relief, and boosting Nebraska’s ag exports.

In the area of value-added agriculture, we have been pushing for E15. Nebraska is the second largest producer of ethanol in the nation. Ethanol helps consumers save money at the pump, cleans up the environment, and helps our farmers and ranchers. Last fall, I joined President Trump in Council Bluffs where he announced the beginning of the rulemaking process to allow E15. We received more good news on May 31st, when the federal government fulfilled its promise to authorize the year-round sale of E15. Now, all 12 months of the year, consumers have the option to choose fuel that’s better for Nebraska’s environment and economy. E15 can be used in any vehicle manufactured starting in 2001 or later. Last week, I joined President Trump in Council Bluffs again to celebrate the final approval of year-round E15.

The State of Nebraska is already paving the way for the introduction of even higher ethanol blends into the nation’s fuel supply by working to dispel misconceptions about the fuel. On June 3rd, Nebraska started an EPA-approved program to study the use of locally sourced E30 in conventional state-owned vehicles. The research on these vehicles’ mileage and maintenance needs will help demonstrate that E30 can both reduce consumers’ costs and contribute to a cleaner environment. As more drivers fill their tanks with E15 and E30, Nebraska’s farmers and ethanol plants will enjoy increased demand for their products.

While expanding ethanol products helps Nebraska’s ag producers sell more, we’re also working on property tax relief. Every year, I have made property tax relief my top legislative priority. In the recent legislative session, we took positive steps to provide property tax relief. First, we controlled spending, which allowed us to deliver additional direct tax relief to Nebraskans by increasing the Property Tax Credit Relief Fund 23% to an annual total of $275 million. Second, I worked with the Legislature to pass LB 103, which protects Nebraskans against automatic property tax hikes. Previously, as property valuations went up, property taxes would often soar higher—even as tax rates remained the same. This meant Nebraskans paid more in property taxes without ever debating or approving the increased amount. LB 103 requires taxing entities—like school districts, cities, and counties—to hold a public hearing and vote before they can raise property taxes. This ensures that Nebraskans are fully informed, and have a fair say, before paying more in property taxes. Third, I signed LB 512 into law to give property tax relief to Nebraskans who experienced significant property damage as a result of the extreme weather this spring.

While these accomplishments are good progress, we still have work to do. Most urgently, we need to make structural property tax reforms to achieve long-term relief. Nebraskans deserve a chance to vote on LR 8CA, which is pending in the Legislature, so we can cap property tax increases. Property tax relief remains my top priority, and I’m working with Senators on tax relief for Nebraska’s farmers, ranchers, and homeowners by controlling spending.

Finally, we’re strengthening international trade relationships to promote Nebraska’s high-quality ag products around the globe. More than 95% of the world’s population lives beyond our borders, and international trade is key to developing new markets for our ag products. We’ve recently seen rapid growth in our state’s exports. For instance, from 2017 to 2018 beef exports jumped 14%. This increase represents a surge of more than $175 million in beef exports for the Beef State.

The exciting news is that we’ve only scratched the surface of our potential to sell Nebraska-grown commodities overseas. In September, I will embark on trade missions to Vietnam and Japan. With nearly 100 million people and a growing middle class, Vietnam is poised to become a lucrative market for our state’s agricultural exports. Japan is already the top international destination for Nebraska beef, with $412 million of exports in 2018. In May, we received good news that Japan has eliminated all remaining non-tariff barriers limiting the import of American beef. This announcement positions Japan to be an even bigger trading partner.

In November, I’ll also lead an international trade mission to Germany. While there, our delegation will attend Agritechnica—the world’s largest international trade fair for agricultural technology. We’ll also meet with federal officials in Berlin to discuss trade policy and visit the headquarters of German companies that have invested in Nebraska.

Growing ethanol options, delivering property tax relief, and expanding international trade are just three of the ways we’re ensuring a fruitful future for Nebraska agriculture. If you have ideas on how we can continue to grow agriculture, I hope that you will contact me by emailingpete.ricketts@nebraska.gov or call 402-471-2244. Together, we can keep Nebraska agriculture strong.

In other news

I say it all the time: Nebraska is the best place in the world to live, work, and raise a family. It’s not just a slogan—it’s my sincere conviction. And there’s plenty of evidence to back up my belief. From great-paying jobs to a family-friendly culture, a wide variety of measures help make …

In the last 200 years, our world has transformed because of two major waves of innovation. The first began in the 18th century with the Industrial Revolution, which ushered in machines, factories, electricity, cars, and air travel. The second revolution was the emergence of the internet, whi…

A few months ago, I received a call on my personal cell phone. Not recognizing the number, but answering after a few rings, I was asked by the “Social Security Administration” to provide my personal identification information at the “request of the government.” Strange. So, I did some resear…

With July upon us, we are now more than halfway through the first year of the 116th Congress. So far 2019 has been marked by partisan divides which have stood in the way of results.

This March, Nebraska won its third consecutive Governor’s Cup. Each year, Site Selection magazine awards the trophy to the state with the most economic development projects per capita. Nebraska didn’t just win the Governor’s Cup this year—our state clobbered the competition! We had more new …

Over the years, sons and daughters of Nebraska have answered the call to serve. They are regular men and women, from every background and every walk of life, united by their desire to protect their homeland and the cause of freedom. Though they may be “regular” men and women, they are also e…

It is hard to believe that it is already July. It feels like the summer is just passing us by.

As recent trends demonstrate, we must take border security seriously. In May, U.S. Customs and Border Protection stopped 144,000 people from illegally entering the United States – the most in one month since 2006. This incredible number of people is almost three times the population of Grand…