Farm Bureau Wants to Beef Up Beef State, Lower Taxes


Beefing up the beef state -- some want to see a return to the diversified farms of the past, as corn prices drop.

The science and business of farming are complicated, so it's no wonder many have specialized, but it may be better economically to raise both crops and livestock.

"We are unfortunately becoming a smaller minority all the time with less ag land to do it on," Kevin Cooksley said.

Farmers and ranchers like the Cooksleys of Custer County make up about two percent of the population, but feed nearly 100 percent of us. Clear Creek Farm is diversified.

Kevin said, "We have a cow–calf pure-breed operation, row crop, a lot of alfalfa, little bit of corn."

That used to be the norm in Nebraska, but over the decades many have focused strictly on corn. Farm Bureau would like to see more livestock to help farmers weather uncertain markets.

Steve Nelson said, "There are opportunities to create diversity, the kind of we haven't had in a long time, both livestock and row crop and can withstand some of the challenges the market can provide when we have high prices in one area or another."

Corn prices have made a big drop this year, but cattle prices are strong.

Nelson said, "It's an opportunity we've overlooked in the state for a number of years and there's some real opportunities to grow livestock in the state and create opportunity for young farmers and ranchers."

Farm Bureau has made livestock expansion a priority. But members say the biggest issue remains tax reform, especially as property values skyrocket.

Cooksley said, "They've been going up an average of 20 percent a year for the last five years and I don't see that slowing down, not much anyway."

Last year farmers clashed with the governor on tax reform. He wanted to end sales tax exemptions that would have seen farmers pay more for seed and equipment. This year, Farm Bureau works alongside the governor. But they encounter state senators who feel the system works fine as it is.

Farmers like Kevin Cooksley clearly disagree.

"Property taxes are carrying over 40 percent of the tax load and with valuations going up so steeply every year, we can't keep that up. They have to find a way to shift the paradigm," he said.

Farm Bureau has also brought light to something many may not have thought about: Farmers collect a lot of data and they'd like assurances they will own the information from their farms.