Community gardens added to livestock development bill

Senators amended a livestock development measure to include community gardens before advancing it to final reading May 18.

Introduced by Ogallala Sen. Ken Schilz, LB175 would authorize the state Department of Agriculture to award grants to counties designated as livestock friendly. Grants could be awarded for strategic planning and improvements to public infrastructure. Operations producing dairy and eggs also would be eligible.

Grants for strategic planning projects would be limited to $15,000 each. Grants for infrastructure projects would be limited to one half of the unobligated balance of the fund, or $200,000, whichever is less. The bill also would raise from $30,000 to $150,000 the tax credit cap allowed through the state’s rural development program for applications filed after Jan. 1, 2016.

An amendment introduced on select file by Omaha Sen. Burke Harr, adopted 37-0, added provisions of his LB544. The amendment would permit state agencies or municipalities to use as community gardens vacant public land for which they have title. After approving a community garden application process, agencies and municipalities would be required to respond to a request within 60 days of receipt of an application.

The amendment also would require the state director of agriculture to establish a community gardens task force by August 2015 to study, evaluate and make recommendations for establishing and expanding community gardens, donating food from the gardens and increasing benefits of the gardens to their respective communities.

An amendment introduced by Schilz, adopted 34-0, limits the total available tax credits for approved projects to $500,000 in 2016, $750,000 in 2017 and 2018 and $1 million for 2019 and each year thereafter.

Senators advanced LB175 on a voice vote.

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