Bill to prioritize Nebraska detasseling crews clears first round

Lawmakers advanced a bill from general file Feb. 20 meant to clarify how seed corn companies solicit bids for contract labor for roguing — eliminating undesired corn plants — and detasseling in Nebraska.

Sen. Steve Erdman
Sen. Steve Erdman

The federal H-2A temporary agricultural program allows employers who anticipate a lack of available domestic workers to bring foreign workers to the U.S. to perform temporary or seasonal agricultural work including detasseling and roguing.

LB844, sponsored by Bayard Sen. Steve Erdman, would amend the state Farm Labor Contractors Act to require seed corn producers who contract for detasseling and roguing services to solicit bids from local contractors before employing H-2A workers.

Erdman said the bill would protect young people who want to work at detasseling and roguing by making sure that producers follow existing law and prioritize hiring domestic workers if they are available.

The state has lost nine companies that previously provided detasseling crews to corn producers, he said, while in 2019 more than 700 young people applied for detasseling jobs that were unavailable because companies had hired H-2A workers instead.

“[The bill] is an opportunity for us to protect the local workforce,” Erdman said, adding that detasseling has a long history of providing employment for Nebraska young people.

Among other provisions, LB844 would:
• add a definition for detasseling and roguing;
• create reporting requirements for seed corn producers who contract for roguing and detasseling labor;
• require the state Department of Agriculture to publish an annual report, beginning Sept. 30, 2025, containing information submitted by corn seed producers;
• require the department to publish a directory containing information related to seed corn operations seeking labor; and
• create a Class IV misdemeanor for seed corn producers who violate reporting requirements.

An Agriculture Committee amendment, adopted 36-0, would add a duty for the department to mail each seed corn producer a directory of exempt detasseling and roguing contractors annually, beginning Jan. 15, 2026.

Hastings Sen. Steve Halloran, chairperson of the committee, spoke in favor of the bill, noting the strong support for the proposal at the public hearing.

“It was particularly exciting to see the enthusiasm of the youth that came to testify about working hard and wanting to be able to have the opportunity to continue to do that in a fair fashion,” he said.

Following adoption of the committee amendment lawmakers advanced the bill to select file on a 36-0 vote.

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