Weekly Column

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Nebraskans understand that federal government regulation affects our lives in almost every way. If you talk to anyone– a county commissioner, a farmer, or a small business owner– they will tell you the impact firsthand. More so, they’ll tell you how overregulation has wasted time and hurt wallets.

For nearly 70 years, an outdated construction contract loan with the Bureau of Reclamation (BoR) anchored the Northport Irrigation District in an older era. 

Northport received a long-term infrastructure loan from the BoR in the early 1950s. Under the contract, individual landowners in the district were restricted to a 960-acre limit until the debt was paid. This came in addition to the mountains of complicated paperwork that was required in order to obtain their water each year.

The contract prevented members in the district from making payments on their overall debt. This forced people to abide by unnecessary, burdensome reporting and certification requirements. Producers near Bridgeport were stymied, as their ability to expand farms and local businesses was severely limited. Many families in western Nebraska told me they sacrificed precious time and resources due to this obsolete regulation. In some cases, it directly impacted their ability to pass their land on to the next generation.

Under previous law, the BoR did not have the authority to permit individual landowners to pay their portion of their federal debt. If landowners did not unanimously agree to an early payment schedule, those who had the financial standing to do so were required to wait. This “all for one” requirement stunted the business of individual landowners, when they could have been producing more quality goods and expanding.

That is why Congressman Adrian Smith and I worked together to correct this wrong. Congressman Smith introduced H.R. 4689 in the House of Representatives to allow farmers in the Northport Irrigation District to repay BoR the outstanding costs of the construction project ahead of schedule. The bill was approved by the House, and I was proud to shepherd the passage of this important legislation through the Senate. In January, President Trump signed H.R. 4689 into law. 

Out-of-date and cumbersome regulations created unnecessary obstacles for our farmers in the panhandle for far too long. Now that this bill is law, producers will have the freedom they need to access more land and increase productivity to feed a hungry world. I want to thank Congressman Smith for his diligent effort to address this issue head on. We will continue working together to cut the nets of federal regulation and deliver meaningful results for all Nebraskans. 

Many of my colleagues in the Senate do not understand these unique needs of Nebraskans. But working across party lines has allowed me to gain their trust in addressing issues that are specific to the Good Life. This is why I have been effective in serving you. 

Nine bills that I sponsored, along with seven amendments, were signed into law last Congress. By working with both my Democrat and Republican colleagues, I can keep delivering results like these for all Nebraskans.

I’m excited for the future opportunities to break down the needless obstacles that federal regulations can create for hardworking Nebraskans. With your input, I will continue to address them at every turn. 

Thank you for your participation in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you next week.