Animal shares, independent processor assistance advance

Senators gave first-round approval March 16 to a bill that would allow farmers and ranchers to offer livestock ownership shares to customers.

Sen. Tom Brandt
Sen. Tom Brandt

Introduced by Plymouth Sen. Tom Brandt, LB324 would allow the acquisition of meat through an animal share — an ownership interest in an animal or herd of animals created by a written contract between a consumer and a farmer or rancher — under certain conditions.

Brandt said meat sold by the package typically must be inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. However, he said, the claim to ownership created by an animal share would allow a producer to sell packages of meat to consumers under a custom exemption in federal law.

Animal share contracts would include a bill of sale and a provision under which the consumer boards the animal or herd with the farmer or rancher for care and processing and the consumer is entitled to receive a share of meat from the animal or herd.

Among other requirements, the animal share owner — or someone acting on their behalf — would have to receive the meat, and the farmer or rancher would have to provide the consumer with a description of their livestock health and processing standards.

A farmer or rancher who offers an animal share would have to be a Nebraska resident and maintain a record of each animal share sold.

An Agriculture Committee amendment, adopted 44-0, removed a provision in the original bill that would have required a farmer or rancher who sells an animal share to register with the state Department of Agriculture and report the number of animal shares sold each year.

It also removed a provision that would have limited the number of livestock a person could sell under animal share contracts.

The amendment would require the name and address of each individual with an ownership interest in the particular livestock to be presented to the processor prior to slaughter.

Brandt said LB324 also would create an independent processor assistance program that potentially would use federal funding to increase Nebraska’s meat processing capacity. Before the pandemic, he said, a typical producer would schedule livestock processing four to six weeks in advance but now can expect to wait up to two years.

The program would provide funding to certain federally inspected, state inspected or custom-exempt slaughter and processing facilities in Nebraska that employ fewer than 25 people.

Recipients could use the funds to pay for capital improvements, utilities upgrades, equipment, technology, building rentals, costs associated with increased inspections and educational and workforce training.

Under the committee amendment, the department would administer the program if funds are made available.

Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte supported LB324. He said it would create opportunities for entrepreneurs who want to raise organic beef and sell it through a cooperative whose members wish to know the origin of their meat.

Many Nebraskans buy quarters or halves of beef from small farms or ranches, Groene said, but that common practice is against the law if those buyers do not own the animal prior to slaughter, which he said is seldom the case.

“Sen. Brandt’s bill corrects that — makes us law-abiding citizens,” he said.

Omaha Sen. John Cavanaugh also supported the bill, saying many Nebraska families do not have the resources to buy and store a quarter or half of beef. LB324 would allow them to buy smaller amounts of healthier, locally raised meat and generate economic activity by encouraging them to build relationships with Nebraska farmers and ranchers, he said.

“People want to have that connection with where their food comes from,” Cavanaugh said.

Senators voted 46-0 to advance the bill to select file.

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