The federal government Wednesday filed a lawsuit seeking the return of more than $144,000 in Conservation Reserve Program payments and interest from former State Sen. Matt Connealy's farming and fertilizer business near Decatur. 

In the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Omaha, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Homan said M.B. Connealy and Sons Inc. owed the money because the Farm Service Agency terminated three CRP contracts.

The CRP program involves landowners being paid to convert their land to conservation uses.

In this case, Homan said, the Burt County FSA Committee reviewed M.B. Connealy and Sons' contracts and decided to terminate three for failure to complete required conservation practices.

He said they failed to appeal the decision so must repay all annual rental payments, which come to $134,737, plus another $9,680 in penalty interest.

Connealy, who is listed as the president of M.B. Connealy and Sons, served two terms as state senator before being term-limited out in 2006. From 2007 to 2009, he was executive director of the Nebraska Democratic Party.

Last year, the Center for Rural Affairs gave Connealy its annual citizenship award for advancing public policies that strengthen family farms, ranches and rural communities.



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