Nebraska Brand Committee will conduct brand inspections electronically | TSLN.com

Nebraska Brand Committee will conduct brand inspections electronically

Terri Licking

John Widdowson, NBC board member and chair of the Technology group sub-committee of the NBC at the NC convention last Dec. Photo by Terri Licking

Nebraska brand inspectors will soon leave their tally books in the vehicle. Instead they'll grab their iPad or smart phone to record the inspection and fill out forms.

The Nebraska Brand Committee has contracted with Nebraska Interactive to make all forms computerized and online payments allowable. Inspectors will be given iPads or an app on their smartphones where they can access the forms at any site they go to for inspection.

"Payment will still be by cash, as it is U.S. tender and must be allowed, but payment by credit or debit cards, by check or a submitting a picture of that check will be encouraged," explained Melody Benjamin, Nebraska Cattlemen vice president of member services.

An audit in 2016 raised several concerns. One of the auditors' recommendations for efficiency was for the NBC to better utilize technology. The NBC formed new committees within its board upon recommendations from the audit. The two committees formed include one on policy/statutes and a technology working group, headed by NBC board member, John Widdowson from Kearney. That committee researched and sent out requests for bids to assist with their technological advancement. Nebraska Interactive LLC (NI) will be working with the NBC for this purpose.

NI has been assisting state agencies in 30 states to become e-filers and collectors for 20 years. Because of them, voter registration is online and the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) registrations and payments can be done online, just two of the Nebraska state agencies handled by NI.

"All producers will be given a number, much like a SSN," Benjamin said. "No one else will have that number. After July 1, this will be utilized by inspectors, thus decreasing the potential of mix-up of funds or loss payments which has occurred occasionally with the mailings. Producers in July can go online and register and receive their number prior to any inspection they require.

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"This will help too with no longer requiring a paper trail for brands. Any cattle bought or sold by that producer will have that information in their file, and the salebarn staff can access it."

Brand inspections do not always occur where Wi-Fi is available. Benjamin also said the information will be downloaded, and when the inspector is able, then can transmit it to the office.

The NBC will employ a consultant who will train the office staff and inspectors.

NI is still working with the feedlots to do electronic shipment information but that will not be available until the end of the year.

"The cost of this work will be assessed six cents per head, which will come out of the one dollar inspection fee until the whole contract cost is met. Another plus to this system, as it is now, brand inspectors collect 2 fees, one for the inspection and one for the beef-check-off. With this new system, one payment will be taken by the inspector and the check-off dollars will be subtracted and submitted electronically," Widdowson said when he addressed NC members during their annual convention last December.

"California, Oregon and New Mexico already have a semblance of e-filing for their brand inspections, but Nebraska's will be more in-depth. Other states are waiting to see how we do before they commit to e-filing of brands," he said.

Background

In 1888, the Nebraska Stockgrowers organization formed. One of its purposes was to help prevent theft – at least for Stockgrowers members. Justice was many times served at the end of a rope. It wasn't until 1941 when the Nebraska Brand Committee was formed by the Unicameral. Its purpose to this day remains to inspect cattle and to investigate missing or stolen cattle. It is a self-supporting cash fund agency, meaning users fees finance the committee — not tax-payer dollars. Its fees are collected from brand recordings, brand inspections and registered feedlots and dairies.

Livestock must be brand inspected prior to shipment to sale barn, feedlot or individual in 59 of the 93 counties in the state.

Rural Nebraska senators have tried for years to change the brand inspection area to include the whole state, but thus far the best they have done is facilitating the passage of LB 768 in 2014 which created a brand inspection service area in the non-brand inspection area of Nebraska that was contiguous with the designated brand inspection area. The area includes eastern Knox, Antelope, Pierce, Boone, Nance, Merrick, Hall, Adams, Webster and Furnas.

There are 86 Nebraska statutes that cover the sale, purchase, transportation, branding and brand inspection of livestock. Sixty-eight of these statutes pertain to all areas of the state of Nebraska. The other 18 are for the brand area only. To view state statutes, go to nebraskalegislature.gov

Brand inspection fees, not taxes, pay the NBC's five-office staff and 100 inspectors, which amounts to approximately $330,000 per month. On February 1, 2016, the brand inspection fee was increased to $1 per head. In 2012, a $10 surcharge on local inspections and a travel allowance not to exceed $20 was passed.

The NBC office is in Alliance. As it has been since 1941, fees collected by the 100 inspectors in the form of checks, cash and change come to the office in brown manila envelopes, where they are manually handled, invoiced and recorded. The office owns three computers, none of which network with each other. To put info from one to another takes downloading to a flash drive. F

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