The Recovery Process
As Nebraskans recover from the historic storms, I have worked with my colleagues and the Administration to ensure our state has the proper federal resources available so hard-working, dedicated Nebraskans can fully recover and rebuild what was lost in these tragic events. Our entire Nebraska congressional delegation is united in this effort.
President Trump acted quickly and decisively to approve a federal disaster declaration requested by Governor Ricketts and supported by the entire Nebraska congressional delegation. This declaration authorizes immediate access to various existing government programs; however, additional funding for many of these programs must now be appropriated by Congress through a supplemental disaster bill. I have urged my colleagues in Congress to pass a bill which can be signed into law.
Because of the unique impact of this storm on our agricultural sector, we must ensure existing federal programs can meet the needs of Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers. The blizzard in the west compounded an already hard winter and has led to cattle losses which are estimated to exceed $400 million. The USDA has already acted to ensure the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) deadline was extended until April 29 for producers whose cattle losses were attributable to hard winter conditions in January, February, and March, and I will continue to work to ensure this program has the flexibility needed to meet producer needs.
In addition, flooding has created numerous problems for farmers, from grain stores washed away or contaminated by the floods to extensive silting of fields impeding planting season. Losses of stored grains are not explicitly covered by current USDA programs, so Congress must act to authorize coverage. I am pleased the most recent versions of both the House and Senate supplemental disaster bills have included language to address losses of stored grain.
Finally, from my position as the Ranking Member of the Ways and Means Select Revenue Measures Subcommittee, I introduced legislation to provide tax relief for Nebraskans impacted by severe weather and flooding. The bill, known as the Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2019, would deliver tax relief to areas that received a federal disaster declaration between January 1, 2019 and April 15, 2019. Senator Fischer introduced the Senate version of this bill, and Senator Sasse, Congressmen Fortenberry and Bacon, and the entire Iowa delegation are original cosponsors.
Offering flexibility for farmers and ranchers along with tax considerations to areas hit by natural disasters are small but important parts of what the federal government can do to assist Nebraskans struggling in the aftermath. As we advocate for further on-the-ground assistance, additional funding, and regulatory relief, I will continue to work to ensure these provisions are as part of the supplemental disaster package working its way through Congress.