My priority bill was heard this week -- LB 634, the Wildfire Suppression Act of 2013, has 5 components with a fiscal request of $1.7 million. The request includes $420,000 for two air tankers and pilots in Valentine and the Panhandle for rapid response during peak fire seasons.
We budgeted $300,000 for airtime and fuel with hopes it will not be spent.
Red cedar infestation was a contributing cause of the fires of 2012. LB 634 allocates $600,000 to match federal and private landowner funding of $1.8 million for cedar reduction.
Cedars are increasing at a rate of more than 38,000 acres annually, with the acreage doubling every five years. Other revenues will double the capacity of the forest service shops that retrofit equipment provided by the federal government through its Excess Property Program. This surplus military equipment is given to the U.S. Forest Service.
After repairing the equipment, it is sold to fire districts at cost.
Last year the Nebraska Emergency Management Administration spent $12 million on fire suppression alone. I believe the allocation of funds in LB 634 will actually save the state a significant amount of revenue over time.
Another bill I hope to debate on the floor is still in the Agriculture Committee despite overwhelming support at its hearing -- LB 654 places the entire state of Nebraska in the brand area.
Nebraska's brand laws were developed when rail shipping was the primary means of cattle transportation. Accordingly, there were few points where cattle were loaded and unloaded. Today these animals are trucked to and from multiple locations, and it is much harder to control and supervise cattle movements today.
Ranchers along the brand line complain about requirements for inspection or permits each time the animals across the line. An all-Nebraska brand area solves that problem and will save them money.
Moving the brand line to the Missouri River will level the playing field for sale barns in the state that lose revenue due to their location on either side of the line. An all-Nebraska line deters theft of animals stolen in the west and sold in the east. It adds revenue to the brand committee which must investigate thefts in the east although no revenue is collected there.
Finally, an all state brand area will rectify the collection process for the Beef Checkoff. In the brand area, brand inspectors collect the checkoff on country sales, while in the non-brand area the seller remits on his own.
Standardizing the process across the state will make the application of the checkoff fair and uniform, keep everyone honest, and add revenue to the checkoff.
LB 654 would benefit Nebraska's cattle producers.
I have support from numerous ranchers east of the line and many of the eastern sale barns that want the added security an inspection program will provide.
However, the bill must come out of committee before debate can occur. I encourage you to ask the committee to send the bill to the floor.
As always, I value your input, and welcome phone calls, emails and personal visits from you.
Sen. Al Davis, State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509, (402)471-2628, firstname.lastname@example.org.