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INSIDE WASHINGTON: What does tax reform plan mean for you?INSIDE WASHINGTON: What does tax reform plan mean for you?

Agricultural groups express encouragement of tax framework, but refinement still needed.

Jacqui Fatka

September 28, 2017

4 Min Read
INSIDE WASHINGTON: What does tax reform plan mean for you?

The Trump Administration, the House Ways & Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee have developed a unified framework to achieve what they view as “pro-American, fiscally  responsible tax reform,” but many details remain to be ironed out. Here is some initial reaction on a plan without many details and no cost estimates.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue applauded the vision for broad reform of the American tax code. He said, “Most family farms operate as small businesses, with the line between success and failure frequently being razor thin. Add to that the complexity and costs of merely complying with the tax code, and their budgets are stretched even tighter.”

Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said he was encouraged by the tax framework but noted that it still needs refinement.

“Farm Bureau is encouraged to see that this framework includes important principles such as lower tax rates for individuals who own businesses, elimination of the death tax and some business interest deductibility. Farm Bureau looks forward to working with tax writers to refine the proposal to ensure that tax reform lowers effective tax rates for farm and ranch businesses,” Duvall said.

Craig Uden, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn., said cattle producers are “very pleased” that President Donald Trump and Republican leaders in Congress have maintained their long-standing commitment to American agriculture by including a full repeal of the onerous death tax in their framework.

Related:INSIDE WASHINGTON: Discussion of tax reform picks up

“We look forward to working with the Administration and lawmakers on Capitol Hill as pen meets paper on tax legislation and will continue to demonstrate how the death tax and its associated costs adversely affect family-owned operations and the rural communities they support,” Uden said.

Perdue said “the unfair death tax can cause too many family farms to be broken up and sold off to pay the tax bill, undoing lifetimes of toil and preventing further generations from carrying on.”

However, Duvall noted that farmers and ranchers need permanent tax provisions like the continuation of cash accounting and like-kind exchanges, the unlimited stepped-up basis and lower capital gains taxes. “Agriculture is a high-risk, high-input, capital-intensive business, and these provisions are essential to success. We look forward to working with Congress to assure that these meaningful reforms are included in any comprehensive tax package,” he said.

Uden noted, “Current provisions in the tax code that help livestock producers maintain economically viable businesses and support the success of future generations of farmers and ranchers must be preserved. Stepped-up basis, cash accounting, like-kind exchanges, cost recovery and the deductibility of interest payments are just a handful of the provisions that allow agricultural producers to survive despite the many challenges we face, from market volatility and fluctuating input prices to droughts, wildfires and floods, to the challenge of generational transfers. We’ll closely monitor these provisions as more details on legislative language become available and intend to fight tooth and nail for a tax code that supports America’s beef producers.”

BUILD Coalition spokesman Mac O’Brien said the coalition opposes the proposal from the “Big 6” to limit interest deductibility as part of tax reform. He said the action would effectively create a new tax on business investment, which runs counter to pro-growth tax reform.

“Businesses of all sizes and across all sectors of the economy — from agriculture to manufacturing, to telecommunications and broadband — rely on this fundamental feature of the tax code. Interest expense is a normal cost of doing business, so its deduction is essential to how we measure net income. Altering that would make it more difficult for American companies to compete in the global economy and harm job creation and long-term economic growth,” O’Brien said.

According to a CNN poll, 68% say the federal income tax system needs either a major overhaul or significant changes. Broken down along party lines, 77% of Republicans, 70% of independents and 62% of Democrats want major changes.

The Senate Finance Committee has jurisdiction on taxes. In June, committee chairman Orin Hatch (R., Utah) appointed Sen. Pat Roberts (R., Kan.) to lead the committee’s examination of agricultural tax issues.

The House and Senate will each need to approve budget resolutions initiating the budget reconciliation process to allow the Senate to consider tax reform with a 51-vote threshold.

Once the budget resolutions are approved, the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways & Means Committee will begin writing and marking up the actual tax reform language.

When questioned whether tax reform will come forward in a bipartisanship effort, Hatch responded, “I hope we don’t need Democratic votes, but I hope we get them. … I think we can hold together the Republicans on this matter.”

About the Author(s)

Jacqui Fatka

Policy editor, Farm Futures

Jacqui Fatka grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in southwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, with a minor in agriculture education, in 2003. She’s been writing for agricultural audiences ever since. In college, she interned with Wallaces Farmer and cultivated her love of ag policy during an internship with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, working in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Capitol Hill press office. In 2003, she started full time for Farm Progress companies’ state and regional publications as the e-content editor, and became Farm Futures’ policy editor in 2004. A few years later, she began covering grain and biofuels markets for the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. As the current policy editor for Farm Progress, she covers the ongoing developments in ag policy, trade, regulations and court rulings. Fatka also serves as the interim executive secretary-treasurer for the North American Agricultural Journalists. She lives on a small acreage in central Ohio with her husband and three children.

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