Belief and Engagement, Critical to Fixing School Funding Problem

steve corn head shotBefore I get to the heart of this month’s column I wanted to take a minute on behalf of the leadership and staff of the Nebraska Farm Bureau to wish everyone a safe and bountiful harvest season. As combines roll across the state, this time of year can be stressful, yet extremely rewarding. Please know here at Farm Bureau we wish you only the best as you work to safely harvest the fruit of your labors.

Speaking of harvest, we all know there would be a lot less to do in the fall if it wasn’t for the work done in the spring to sow the seeds for the coming year’s crop. The same holds true when it comes to addressing the number one issue we hear about from members, that being property tax relief.

Nothing worth having comes easy. To have a harvest you must first, successfully plant seeds. Over the past two legislative sessions Nebraska Farm Bureau has made providing property tax relief a top priority; planting the seeds and working to address the issue. Yet like many things, there is no simple fix. I’ve said many times that high property taxes in agriculture are the symptom of a larger problem with the way Nebraska funds schools. The reliance on property taxes and a diminished level of state support for districts with large agricultural land bases has created inequity in how schools are funded; and in who funds them. As you know all too well, much of the increased burden has fallen on farm and ranch families across the state.

The frustration I hear from members with the situation is growing in both size and scope. Yet at the same time, I sense some have doubts as to whether the legislature will do anything to address the issue and therefore there’s little reason to put forth the effort to fix the problem. As I think about the situation, a couple of quotes from some very successful coaches come to mind.

“You carry on no matter what are the obstacles. You simply refuse to give up – and, when the going gets tough, you get tougher. And, you win.” ~Vince Lombardi

“If you are going to be a successful duck hunter, you must go where the ducks are.” ~Paul “Bear” Bryant

To me, these two quotes provide great insight into how we must approach this critical issue. Leaders work to find solutions, not dwell on problems. Your Farm Bureau organization will head into the 2016 legislative session committed to finding solutions to the school funding issue, fully examining all of our options.

Having said that, engagement from members is also critical. As Paul Bryant points out, we have to take our message and our concerns to the people who can make a difference. That’s not just the rural contingency in the legislature, but all 49 state senators who have been elected to provide leadership and direction for our state. And that can’t be done just by Nebraska Farm Bureau staff. We need members to both believe in this effort and to engage to make a difference. The legislative process is a contact sport. We need to develop sound policy as we work through the policy development process this fall. And from there we need members to spread the message to elected officials and others who can assist in our cause. Your personal stories, experiences and voice carry weight.

This problem isn’t going away and it’s only going to get worse. Now is the time for us to roll up our sleeves and take heed of the message provided by Lombardi and Bryant who knew a thing or two about hard work and winning. As we head toward and through the 2016 legislative session there will be many opportunities for you work through Farm Bureau to make a difference. Farm Bureau is about engaging leaders for the betterment of agriculture. Never has there been a better time, or issue, for us to come together to show it.

Until Next Time,

Steve Nelson

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