Advocacy Visits with Small Businesses in Omaha, Nebraska
By Prianka Sharma, Assistant Chief Counsel
On July 16, 2018 Advocacy staff attended a small roundtable with members of the agriculture industry in Omaha, Nebraska. Members of many major sectors of agriculture including grain and seed, livestock, pork, and agricultural transportation were represented at the meeting.
Stakeholders spoke about a wide variety of issues affecting agriculture in Nebraska. Nebraska is the top state for cattle on feed. The new Department of Transportation electronic logging and hours of service rules is having a negative effect on the livestock industry, because drivers cannot simply stop when they are hauling live animals. Truckers risk losing their license to deliver the animals safely without having to stop on the way. They stated that DOT is not accounting for the issue of animal welfare. Stakeholders were not hopeful that anything would be done about the regulation, stating that “Omaha pigs will fly” before any legislative or regulatory relief happens.
Attendees also spoke about the waters of the United States rule, stating that it is extremely unclear what is and is not regulated. One stakeholder spoke about Nebraska water in particular, and the need for agriculture businesses to work with environmentalists on keeping waterways clean. He spoke of the symbiotic nature between farms and waterways, and the important role farmers can play in assisting with water quality.
Crop insurance was another topic important to attendees of the roundtable. They stated that the Congressional Farm Bill should cover more non-traditional crops and allow farmers to farm alternative crops for conservation purposes. Currently in Nebraska, farmers farm sugar beets, millet, dry animal beets, and a host of other non-traditional crops. He stated that more time is spent, “farming the farm bill, than farming the land.”
Stakeholders also spoke about health insurance, indicating that the number one cost to small businesses in the agriculture industry is health insurance. Some stated that it is cost-prohibitive to bring their own relatives into the family farm because of how much it would cost to ensure them. Employing family members does not qualify as a group for purposes of group insurance; farmers must have at least two non-family members. This means for a family-owned and operated farm, they would not be eligible for group rates no matter how many employees they had.
Finally, attendees spoke about OSHA grain elevator rules having burdensome costs, and size standards for members of the agriculture industry being inaccurate and too low, especially for livestock and pork.
Agriculture is a major industry in the Midwest, and we were fortunate to hear from members of many cross-sectors in the industry. Advocacy staff have a lot of work to do to help those who feed our country.
Advocacy was in Iowa for Regional Regulatory Reform Roundtables July 17-19, but made a stop in Nebraska to speak to small businesses before the roundtables began.
Can’t get to a roundtable near you? Fill out this form and tell us about your federal regulatory burdens. We will pass this information on to the appropriate agency and use it in the planning of upcoming Regional Regulatory Reform Roundtables.
Prianka Sharma is an Assistant Chief Counsel for Advocacy whose portfolio includes natural resources, agriculture, and energy. Sharma can be reached at Prianka.Sharma@sba.gov.