Omaha World Herald. August 15, 2019

No easy answers for residents in this flood-damaged Nebraska village

The waters have receded, but this year's catastrophic flooding continues to take its toll on many Midlands communities. The situation is presenting residents of Winslow, a village in Dodge County, with a painful question: Given the continuing vulnerability to flooding, should the community uproot itself and relocate to higher ground?

It's a decision that only the residents themselves can make. Village leaders and outside agencies can help by providing them with full information. Government agencies also can help by working out the strongest arrangements possible.

It's rare, but sometimes communities relocate in the face of ongoing flood threats. Niobrara, Neb., for example, has moved twice — first in 1881 and then again in the 1970s. The challenges of building a community anew at a new site are major, of course.

At some point Winslow residents will decide, yea or nay, as a community whether to relocate their village. If there's a consensus, those supporting the move can take a government buyout and relocate to a new Winslow on a better protected site in Dodge County. State or federal buyout programs pay residents 75% of the pre-flood value of their property, The World-Herald's Erin Duffy reports. FEMA-funded buyouts require land to be deed-restricted to prohibit anything from being built there in the future.

Individuals would still have the option to stay, but people with heavily damaged properties would likely be required to elevate their home or business at a substantial cost. They also have the option to take a government buyout and move to a different community, such as nearby Hooper or Fremont.

Residents understandably differ in their reactions. "Staying at our current location could put us back in harm's way," one resident said, "and we really don't want to go through this experience again."

"If you're offered $60,000 or $70,000 for your house for a buyout, you'd still have to get a mortgage for a modular," said a resident who found that the cheapest available modular home costs $80,000. "That made our decision pretty much finalized."

There are no easy answers as Winslow residents make their decisions in this difficult time.


The Grand Island Independent. August 15, 2019

Beefing up our trade is great news for livestock producers

With Nebraska producers increasingly feeling the brunt of the ongoing trade war with China, it was very good news last week when President Trump signed an agreement with the European Union that will increase U.S. beef exports to the EU.

Beef is the leading export commodity from Nebraska and convincing a customer to increase its purchases of U.S. beef means more Nebraska beef will be showing up on European families' tables.

Gov. Pete Ricketts said the agreement presents a "major growth opportunity for our state."

In 2005 only 5% of the U.S. beef entering the EU came from Nebraska. By 2018, Nebraska's share had risen to 53% and was valued at $124.3 million.

Under the trade deal, U.S. farmers will ultimately be entitled to nearly 80 percent of the European Union's quota on hormone-free beef over the next seven years. This means the U.S. will export 35,000 tons of beef to the EU per year.

Last year, the USDA reported that Nebraska was the nation's leading cattle slaughter state at more than 7.45 million head.

Nebraska shipments of beef and beef products to the European Union ranged from $120 million to $143 million annually over the last five years. That's between 40 and 50 percent of total U.S. shipments.

"Hopefully, (the) deal is a positive step in building relations to secure a bilateral trade deal with the European Union to open even greater access for U.S. agriculture products," Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson said.

"With the agriculture economy struggling and the recent difficulties in trade negotiations with China, it's critical we continue to grow agriculture market opportunities where we can," Nelson said.

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Increasing our regular customers' appetite for our beef is an important task as the U.S. continues trade negotiations with countries around the world. The longer China finds a way to do without U.S. meat products, the more likely it becomes that it could take a decade or more to recover that market.

Sen. Deb Fischer, a cattle rancher and a member of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee, emphasized the high quality of Nebraska beef as she lauded the agreement with the EU.

That is also the message Ricketts will take with him when he goes on a trade mission to Germany in November.

We in Nebraska know how great our beef is. We need to shout this far and wide.


Lincoln Journal Star. August 16, 2019

Congressional delegation gets it right: Time to approve USMCA

Trade with Canada and Mexico is big business for Nebraska.

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The five Republicans representing the state in Washington recognize that, with the topic being a central focus of the annual forum they hold in Ashland during Congress' summer recess. To that end, each called for ratification of the United States-Mexico-Canada agreement.

They're right. Nebraska needs this deal to secure the access to overseas markets.

If fear of giving President Donald Trump a victory, as Gov. Pete Ricketts stated at the forum, is indeed causing delay, Congress should consider what's best for Americans rather than partisan gain.

After all, a rising tide lifts all boats, no matter who's captaining them.

The North American Free Trade Agreement, enacted during Bill Clinton's presidency, has been a boon to Nebraska, particularly its agricultural and manufacturing industries. And its replacement, now championed by a Republican president, is only marginally different and looks to build upon its predecessor's success.

The semantics and partisan politics at play matter far less than the need to secure a continental trade pact with Nebraska's best foreign customers, which the USMCA deal does.

Canada and Mexico alternate as the state's leading destination for exports, but they consistently comprise greater than 40% of all overseas sales - not to mention a quarter of imports. With each exceeding $1.7 billion in exports in 2018, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, they individually more than double our No. 3 market, Japan ($833 million).

In terms of imports, Canada also checked in at No. 2, just behind China, with $941 million, too. Mexico, meanwhile, has jumped to fourth.

Of Nebraska's $3.5 billion trade surplus, Canada and Mexico accounted for $2.2 billion - nearly two-thirds. As such, it's imperative to pass, despite the ill-advised imposition of tariffs under the flawed auspices of "national security" that jeopardized negotiations with our vital North American allies.

Having that rock-solid base with our neighbors is vital, in addition to ongoing negotiations with Japan and the European Union, as American trade policy is stumbling from self-inflicted wounds elsewhere.

Prospects of tariffs sparking a trade war with China - Nebraska's third-largest export market - have sent the stock market tumbling and left ag producers without a vital overseas trade partner. In response, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is distributing $28 billion in impact aid to farmers, which pales in comparison to losses not of their making.

The message for Nebraska's ag sector, responsible for 25% of jobs in this state, throughout it all never wavered: We want trade, not aid. And we concur.

With this much instability on trade policy, Nebraskans need to know what they can count on. Access to familiar markets in friendly countries is imperative - meaning Congress must pass USMCA.


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