On Friday, the Nebraska Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing on the Nebraska Brand Committee (NBC) and the audit that was complete by the Nebraska State Auditor. Background on the audit can be found here.
“It was a hearing but, it was more of a briefing, of what the Brand Committee has done since the audit was released. How they have tried to address all of the issues. We went through them, not quite line item, but we hit the major points that seemed to be of concern,” said Senator Jerry Johnson, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
The majority of the hearing was spent on the Brand Committee’s former executive director, Shawn Harvey. Back on August 8, the NBC, during a meeting, accepted Harvey’s resignation and promptly offered him a new position – interim director of field operations and chief investigator officer. Background on that meeting can be found here.
Senator Harr asked the NBC to ‘sell Harvey’ to the Senate Ag Committee and why they kept him employed. Senators Bloomfield, Chambers, Harr and Riepe seemed dissatisfied with the NBC’s responses.
“I’m not going to be here when this is acted upon by the Legislature next year. And I think, for the Brand Committee, that is a good thing, because this thing smells,” said Senator Bloomfield.
The NBC has received applications for the open executive director’s position. Jerry Kuenning, chairman of the NBC, says, “At this present time, we know of fourteen applicants that have applied. As the numbers break down, some of those are very good applicants, some of those need some more experience.” He says interviews will start the week of October 24 and by the end of that week they hope to have a director hired.
Also discussed, during the hearing, was the new technology program through Nebraska Interactive. Representatives from the company also testified. An interview with RRN, can be found below about the program.
Kuenning indicated that six cents per head, from every dollar collected from inspection fees, (at no additional cost to producers) will be payed to Nebraska Interactive. He said they hope to have it up and running by July 1, 2017.
In the end, Senator Chambers indicated that the NBC should have more government oversight. In executive session after the hearing, Senator Johnson indicated that was discussed during executive session after the hearing. He said, “(We) wondered if there was a way that they (NBC) could connect a little bit better with either the Secretary of State’s Office, which a lot of stuff that they do might fall under him, or Department of Ag.”