A bill to restructure the Nebraska Corn Board came up for first round debate Tuesday in the Nebraska legislature. But LB354, which would give the corn checkoff board more autonomy by making it a quasi-state agency, met with strong opposition from one state senator—Omaha’s Ernie Chambers.
Chambers voiced several objections and questioned why the board, if it desires to be independent, wants to continue using the state Department of Agriculture to collect and enforce the checkoff.
“There are people who want to have this dedicated money not under the control of the state–but they want the state to be the bag person, the collector, the hammer, the muscle,” Chambers said. “They want the government to be the ones who say, ‘Give me this money—and if you don’t, you’re committing a crime’. And this money will wind up in the coffers of a private operation.”
Agriculture Committee chair Ken Schilz, a cattle feeder and farmer from Ogallala, defended the bill, saying it would simply give the Corn Board more flexibility in its operations.
“Through the privatization of the board itself, we’ve been able to give them flexibility in their hiring, firing, and benefits and wage practices—as well as giving them other flexibility when it comes to how they operate that,” said Schilz. “It doesn’t necessarily give them any more flexibility in how they spend their money. They still have to spend it through the statutes.”
The bill also calls for Corn Board directors to be elected rather than appointed by the governor and includes a refund provision, which is not part of the current corn checkoff.
The legislature adjourned for the day without taking action on the bill.