Tax provisions pass House committee: The House Ways & Means Committee approved two pieces of legislation that include important provisions for farmers and ranchers: the Conservation Easement Incentive Act of 2013, which would make the conservation easement tax credit permanent, and H.R. 4718, which would make the 50% bonus depreciation of new capital purchases permanent. Both address sections of the Tax Code that expired at the end of 2013 and have traditionally been addressed in tax extenders packages but were considered as part of the House and Senate tax reform proposals. The two bills are now ready for consideration on the House floor, along with legislation to permanently extend Section 179 expensing. These measures will likely become part of a tax extenders package that is currently awaiting further consideration on the Senate floor but was held up in May.
Made in Rural America forum held: The White House Rural Council held its first Made in Rural America regional export forum with business owners and local leaders June 4 in Canonsburg, Pa. The meeting was hosted by the Appalachian Regional Commission, and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack delivered the keynote address. This first forum provided business-to-business learning opportunities and federal, state and local expertise for rural business and community leaders. At the forum, the Obama Administration unveiled a dedicated web portal for rural businesses considering export opportunities. With 5 million-plus page views to date, BusinessUSA.gov allows a search of aggregated business-related information and resources of 24 federal agencies, from starting a business to obtaining financing to exporting. Now, with a news feed specifically highlighting relevant export opportunities and headlines, plus a forthcoming quick search tool for rural businesses preparing to export, the portal is poised to help rural producers, manufacturers and other businesses successfully enter the export market. The next forum, hosted by the Delta Regional Authority, will be held July 18 near Memphis, Tenn.
Union Pacific opens $400m facility: Union Pacific Railroad recently completed the newest facility on its 23-state network. The 2,200-acre site in Santa Teresa, N.M., which officially opened April 1, will provide greater logistics efficiencies along Union Pacific's critical Sunset Route, the rail line running 760 miles from El Paso, Texas, to Los Angeles, Cal. The Santa Teresa rail facility includes a fueling station, crew change buildings and an intermodal ramp with an annual lift capacity of around 225,000 containers. The southern region of New Mexico is now a strategic focal point where shippers can leverage the economic and environmental benefits of shipping freight by rail. The facility will create 300-600 permanent jobs once it reaches full capacity. The project's estimated overall economic impact to New Mexico exceeds $500 million. Union Pacific plans to invest around $4.1 billion in 2014 as part of a long-term strategy to provide safe, efficient service across its 32,000-mile rail network.
Pet food maker C.J. Foods sold: Trinity Hunt Partners (THP) announced last week the sale of portfolio company C.J. Foods, a specialty manufacturer of super-premium dog and cat food, to J.H. Whitney Capital Partners, a Connecticut-based private equity firm. In partnership with THP, C.J. Foods executed a strategic growth plan, established in 2009, that included a $20 million plant expansion and numerous capital improvement projects that resulted in a doubling of C.J. Foods' capacity during THP's ownership. Additionally, THP and C.J. Foods said they worked together to implement stringent food safety standards that have led to long-standing relationships with the industry's premier brands and have solidified C.J. Foods' reputation as a best-in-class manufacturer of super-premium pet foods. The C.J. Foods management team will remain with the company to ensure that the demands of its rapidly growing customer base are met.
CRP signup starts: The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced signups for this year's Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). CRP consists of a "continuous" and "general" signup period. Continuous signup for the voluntary program starts June 9. Under continuous signup authority, eligible land can be enrolled in CRP at any time, with contracts of up to 10-15 years in duration. In lieu of a general signup this year, USDA will give producers with general CRP contracts expiring in September the option of a one-year contract extension. Under the 2014 farm bill, producers enrolled through general signup for more than five years can now exercise the option to opt out of the program if certain other conditions are met. Also, the new grassland provisions, which will allow producers to graze their enrolled land, provide added flexibility. Signup will also begin June 9 for the Transition Incentives Program, which provides two additional years of payments for retired farmers and ranchers who transition expiring CRP acres to socially disadvantaged, military veteran or beginning producers who return the land to sustainable grazing or crop production. Program funding was increased by more than 30% in the 2014 farm bill to provide up to $33 million through 2018.