Transportation and Telecommunications

Transportation program expansion considered

A bill that would increase the funding cap for a state road improvement program and expand it to include livestock production and processing was heard in the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee March 7.

Sen. Myron Dorn
Sen. Myron Dorn

The Economic Opportunity Program, which finances transportation improvements to attract new business, is administered by the state Department of Transportation in coordination with the state Department of Economic Development.

LB564, introduced by Adams Sen. Myron Dorn, would increase the program’s funding cap from $20 million to $40 million. The bill also would add livestock production and processing operations to the list of businesses for which the program could finance transportation improvements.

If Nebraska wants great economic opportunities, Dorn said, it needs to have great transportation infrastructure.

“There are dairy operations that would like to come to Nebraska but they need paved roads to move their product safely and efficiently, as do other ag operations,” Dorn said.

In support of the bill was Kris Bousquet, executive director of the Nebraska Dairy Association, speaking on behalf of the Nebraska Ag Leaders Working Group. The dairy industry is expected to see significant growth in the next five to 10 years, he said, and data shows that recruiting a large dairy processor would bring $1.7 billion worth of annual economic return to Nebraska.

“We have significant opportunities in livestock growth and LB564 will not only help counties bring economic vitality back to main street, but it will help them overcome infrastructure demands of economic development that often disqualifies them [from] the opportunity,” Bousquet said.

Jon Cannon, executive director of the Nebraska Association of County Officials, also testified in favor of the bill. Counties in western Nebraska are looking for ways to become livestock friendly, he said, and LB564 would help prepare their infrastructure to support expanded livestock production and processing.

No one testified in opposition to the bill and the committee took no immediate action on it.

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