Dairy study bill advanced

The state Department of Agriculture would provide the Legislature a report about Nebraska’s dairy industry under a bill advanced from general file March 6.

LB941, introduced by Ogallala Sen. Ken Schilz, would require that the report examine Nebraska’s milk production and processing, marketing and expansion opportunities, productivity comparisons and trends and efforts to recruit dairies and stimulate investment.

The bill would permit the agriculture director to make recommendations for ways that state government could stimulate milk production and markets. The deadline for the report would be Nov. 15, 2014, with the intent that it receive a public hearing by the Agriculture Committee.

The estimated $32,000 cost of the report would come from the Commercial Feed Administration Cash Fund.

Schilz said the report is necessary because Nebraska has seen a long-term attrition of dairies and dairy animals. A recent closure of a cheese factory in Ravenna eliminated 170 jobs, he said, and a UNL Extension Office study showed Nebraska has fallen to 27th in milk production nationally.

“There is a concern that the loss of milk producers and stagnant milk production is a key factor in decisions by some processors to abandon processing facilities in Nebraska,” Schilz said.

The report would provide important baseline data, Schilz said, that would elicit recommendations from state dairy officials to help the industry grow.

An Agriculture Committee amendment, adopted 28-0, clarifies that the report should study the capacity of instate processors to utilize increased instate milk production and the potential for expansion of self-processing and direct marketing of Nebraska milk and dairy products.

The bill advanced to select file on a 28-0 vote.

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