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Federal News

Some Tax Code Changes Would Hamper Farmers and Ranchers

DTN | Posted on November 7, 2017

K-Coe Isom, an agricultural accounting and consulting firm,  said there were provisions in the tax bill that would hamper growth for farmers and ranchers and could increase their taxes. These include caps on the interest-expense deduction, scaling back carry-back of losses, the elimination of the Domestic Production Activities Deduction and limits on like-kind exchanges.The tax plan would cap business-interest deductions at 30% of adjusted taxable income. Like cash accounting, businesses with average revenue of $25 million or less would be exempt from that cap.Wald called on Congress to consider four changes to the bill:-- Exempt farm businesses from limits on interest deductions. Farms and ranches often finance equipment, land and input costs with debt financing.Unlike other sectors of the economy, agriculture rarely turns to equity financing, relying much more heavily on debt financing to operate. While it is good that small businesses are exempt from interest expense limitations in this bill, Wald said it would be better if all farm businesses were exempt from this limitation.-- Allow farmers and ranchers to use like-kind exchanges for farm equipment. The current tax code allows farmers to avoid paying taxes on the trades of equipment provided that the farmer acquires similar equipment.-- Congress should preserve the ability of farmers to use such like-kind exchanges. This creates an incentive to replace aging farm equipment with new purchases, which is good for agricultural competitiveness and good for ag manufacturers and equipment dealers.-- Exempt agriculture from the elimination of the Domestic Production Activities Deduction (Sec. 199). The Domestic Production Activities Deduction (DPAD) is a deduction that applies to proceeds from agricultural products that are manufactured, produced or grown by farmers.


USDA withdraws proposed biotech rule

Farm Futures | Posted on November 7, 2017

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced it is withdrawing a proposed rule to revise the agency’s biotechnology regulations and will re-engage with stakeholders to determine the most effective, science-based approach for regulating the products of modern biotechnology while protecting plant health.


Perdue Announces Farm Service Agency and Rural Development State Directors

USDA | Posted on November 6, 2017

 U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced a slate of Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Rural Development (RD) State Directors, all serving as appointees of President Donald J. Trump.  FSA State Directors help implement U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) policies in planning, organizing, and administering FSA programs in their respective states. They are also responsible for running the day-to-day activities of the state FSA office.  Similarly, RD State Directors work to help improve the economy and quality of life in rural America.


Awaiting Trump's coal comeback, miners reject retraining

Reuters | Posted on November 2, 2017

When Mike Sylvester entered a career training center earlier this year in southwestern Pennsylvania, he found more than one hundred federally funded courses covering everything from computer programming to nursing. He settled instead on something familiar: a coal mining course.”I think there is a coal comeback,” said the 33-year-old son of a miner.Despite broad consensus about coal’s bleak future, a years-long effort to diversify the economy of this hard-hit region away from mining is stumbling, with Obama-era jobs retraining classes undersubscribed and future programs at risk under President Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget. Trump has promised to revive coal by rolling back environmental regulations and moved to repeal Obama-era curbs on carbon emissions from power plants.“I have a lot of faith in President Trump,” Sylvester said.But hundreds of coal-fired plants have closed in recent years, and cheap natural gas continues to erode domestic demand. The Appalachian region has lost about 33,500 mining jobs since 2011, according to the Appalachian Regional Commission.Coal miners are resisting retraining without ready jobs from new industries, but new companies are unlikely to move here without a trained workforce. The stalled diversification push leaves some of the nation’s poorest areas with no clear path to prosperity.


Supreme Court rejects Louisiana dirt farmer's appeal

Fox News | Posted on November 2, 2017

The justices did not comment Monday in leaving in place a Louisiana Supreme Court ruling against Chad Jarreau of Cut Off, Louisiana. The local government agency in charge of protection from hurricanes took the dirt from just under an acre of Jarreau's property to build up a nearby levee.The agency initially paid him just $1,326. Jarreau won a judgment of $164,000 for the dirt after a trial, but ended up with less than $12,000 after the state high court ruled.Jarreau had dug up most of his 17-acre tract and sold the dirt for use in construction projects.


Voter suppression, the blueprint to a broken democracy

The Hill | Posted on November 2, 2017

Numerous false narratives have been advanced to sow division in the American electorate, with few more pernicious than the myth of voter fraud. Created as a tactic to justify discriminatory voter suppression practices, this mythos threatens our most fundamental constitutional right and undermines the core democratic values of republican government. The myth that voter fraud is rampant and our elections are infiltrated by undocumented immigrants was used as a pretext for state legislatures across our nation to make it harder for minorities to vote. Against the tide of reforms to expand the franchise for all voters, states like North Carolina began to repeal common sense legislation designed to ease the inconvenience of antiquated voting practices. In 2013, the state enacted a law allowing election boards to cut voting hours. The state Republican Party even informed election officials that “Republicans can and should make party line changes to early voting.” Consequently, 23 counties reduced early voting, accounting for half of all registered voters. 


Trump science nominee admits lack of hard science credentials

The Hill | Posted on November 2, 2017

President Trump’s nominee for a top position in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has admitted that he has no credentials in the hard sciences.Sam Clovis, co-chairman for Trump's former campaign co-chairman, has been nominated as USDA undersecretary for research, a position that is typically held by individuals with advanced degrees and extensive experience in agricultural sciences.In a letter to Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), the ranking member of the Senate agriculture committee, obtained by  The Washington Post, Clovis responded “none” to questions about how many graduate level courses he has taken in natural science, and any membership or leadership roles he has held in agricultural scientific organizations.He also writes that he has not received any awards, designations or academic recognition related to agricultural scientist.Clovis also confirms in the letter that he has not published any articles in scientific peer-reviewed publications or had any experience as a peer reviewer or editor of such publications.


USDA proposes lifting mining ban near Grand Canyon

Reuters | Posted on November 2, 2017

 The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Wednesday proposed lifting a mining ban on land near Grand Canyon National Park as part of the Trump administration’s broader effort to sweep away regulations impeding development.“Adoption of this recommendation could re-open lands to mineral entry pursuant to the United States mining laws facilitating exploration for, and possibly development of, uranium resources,” the department wrote in a report to the White House seen by Reuters.The area potentially affected by the reopening is managed by the department’s Forest Service.


Exports are up, but what’s the future of trade deals?

National Hog Farmers | Posted on November 2, 2017

The only bad trade agreement is one that you’re not in, so it’s imperative that the United States can hold its own in existing trade pacts, while also developing new relationships. Seng sees the fact that the pork complex exports are up 9% is “very encouraging news for us because pork has always been a challenge to some degree. Mexico is up about 18%. … We’re watching Mexico because quietly it has become our No. 1 volume destination and it’s a very important market, a growing market for us.”In addition to Mexico, U.S. pork is also finding its way into the marketplace of other countries around the globe in increasing fashion: South Korea, up 27%, South America, up 96%, and “the Caribbean, ASEAN and even Taiwan has become very good for us,” Seng says.All that looks good, but then Seng sheds some light on the current trade issues. “Probably the most imminent thing we’re concerned about is as the U.S. goes into its fifth round of negotiations with NAFTA, is for NAFTA itself,” he says. “I think for the whole red meat industry, I don’t think anyone would disagree with me that it (North American Free Trade Agreement) has actually been a beautiful arrangement for the U.S. red meat industry.”


Ted Cruz is blocking Bill Northey's USDA appointment

Des Moines Register | Posted on November 1, 2017

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture’s Bill Northey’s confirmation to a top post at the USDA – long thought to be a slam-dunk – is reportedly being held up over oil-versus-corn politics in the U.S. Senate.  U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is holding back Northey’s nomination as the Ag Department’s new undersecretary for farm production and conservation. The move comes despite wide support for Northey on the Senate Agriculture Committee. The reason? According to Politico’s unnamed sources, it’s a “reaction” to successful efforts by Iowa Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst last week to block action by the Environmental Protection Agency to decrease the mandate for biofuels blended into the nation’s fuel supply.


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