Six major farm organizations have declared that property tax reform, instead of a constitutional protection for a "right to farm," should be the main priority for keeping agriculture in Nebraska strong.
The Nebraska Ag Leaders Working Group said Wednesday that any effort to enact right-to-farm protections shouldn't be done in the state constitution but in state law.
The proposal by Sen. John Kuehn of Heartwell would enshrine the right to "engage in farming and ranching practices" in the Nebraska Constitution if voters approve it in November. Doing so would prevent lawmakers from passing new agricultural regulations without a "compelling state interest."
"We are united in our belief that protecting our members' interests and the future of agriculture isn't about a single ballot measure or initiative," said Steve Nelson, Nebraska Farm Bureau president.
The group also said there are other issues more important to agriculture's "viability and growth."
The statement represents a change of heart for four of the six organizations that backed a right-to-farm measure. Nebraska Corn Growers Association, Nebraska Cattlemen, Nebraska Pork Producers Association and Nebraska Soybean Association are the organizations that originally supported the measure.
Kuehn said he plans to continue pushing for a constitutional amendment despite the six groups' lack of support.
"We will work through the process of what seems best," Kuehn said.
Taylor Gage, a spokesman for Gov. Pete Ricketts, who had backed the right-to-farm proposal this year, gave a more noncommittal response to the agricultural groups' statement.
"Gov. Ricketts continues to support agriculture as an industry against outside extremist groups that oppose animal agriculture and spread misinformation about ag technology," Gage said.
Gage noted that the governor has heard about the priority of property tax relief.
Nelson said that attempting to pass the right-to-farm measure would take away from efforts to address property tax concerns.