Livestock, community garden development passed

Senators passed a measure May 21 that encourages development of livestock and community gardening projects in Nebraska.

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

Grants for strategic planning projects are limited to $15,000 each. Grants for infrastructure projects are limited to one half of the unobligated balance of the fund, or $200,000, whichever is less. The bill also raises 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.

The total available tax credits for approved projects will be $500,000 in 2016, $750,000 in 2017 and 2018, and $1 million for 2019 and each year thereafter.

The bill also permits 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 are required to respond to a request within 60 days of receipt of an application.

The state director of agriculture is required 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.

Another provision of the bill, incorporated from Omaha Sen. Burke Harr’s LB544, makes changes to the state Seed Law and defines a seed library as a nonprofit governmental or cooperative organization that donates seeds for seed saving, education and access. Under the measure, seed libraries are exempt from certain packaging, labeling and transfer standards.

Senators passed LB175 with an emergency clause on a 47-0 vote.

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