Omnibus ag proposal clears first round

A cleanup bill was amended to become an omnibus Agriculture Committee measure and advanced from general file March 5.

Sen. Steve Halloran
Sen. Steve Halloran

LB262, as introduced last session by the committee, would clarify and combine terms within the Nebraska Pure Food Act to align with the federal Food and Drug Administration Food Code. Under current law, only individuals who are credentialed as registered environmental health specialists qualify as food inspectors. Among other changes, LB262 would remove that requirement.

An Agriculture Committee amendment, adopted 33-1, replaced the bill and added provisions of four other proposals. Among other changes, the amendment would specify that a local regulatory authority still could choose to use only individuals who are credentialed as registered environmental health specialists as food inspectors.

Hastings Sen. Steve Halloran, chairperson of the committee, said the amendment was a package of requests from state agencies and other provisions prioritized by the committee.

The amendment includes provisions of two proposals introduced by the committee: LB263, which would remove conflicts between state law and the USDA Final Rule implementing the hemp provisions of the 2018 Farm Bill; and LB264, which would make a series of revisions to the state Grain Dealer Act and Grain Warehouse Act.

The provisions of LB264 would revise the definition of “grain” to remove an ambiguity regarding whether grain excludes segregated commodities such as certified organic. It also would change grain dealer licensure requirements as follows:
• increase the maximum dealer security from $300,000 to $1 million;
• increase the maximum warehouse bond from $500,000 to $1 million;
• remove a formula for calculating the security amount and allow the Nebraska Public Service Commission to set the amount by regulation; and
• clarify an exemption from criminal background checks for an individual submitting a new license application who previously submitted a background check for a separate license.

The amended provisions of LB305, sponsored by Halloran, also are included in the committee amendment. The provisions would remove the duty and authority of the PSC to establish grain storage rates, but would specify that warehouse licensees must prominently post storage rates and related charges on signage issued by the commission.

New license applicants would file a schedule of storage rates and charges with their application. Warehouse licensees could adjust such rates and charges by filing notice with the PSC and all grain owners of record at least 30 days prior to any adjustment taking effect. The amendment also would make it a Class IV misdemeanor to charge storage rates other than, or in addition to, those filed and posted.

Finally, the committee amendment would add provisions of Omaha Sen. Tony Vargas’s LB740, which would allow a political subdivision acting as a regulatory authority to enter into an interlocal agreement with other public agencies to grant and provide reciprocity for local licensing of food trucks.

Halloran offered an amendment, adopted 35-1, that removed the provisions of LB740 from the committee amendment. He said identical provisions were amended into another bill that lawmakers passed last session.

Following adoption of the amendments, senators voted 33-1 to advance LB262 to select file.

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