Prioritizing rural america
January 19, 2018
To kick off 2018, the American Farm Bureau welcomed President Trump to their annual meeting. It was the first time a U.S. president addressed this gathering in 26 years.
Our country depends on ag producers every day for our food, feed, fuel and fiber, which makes it all the more surprising so much time had passed without a president speaking directly to this assembly of thousands of ag leaders from across the nation.
In his address, President Trump expressed appreciation for the hard work of U.S. farmers and ranchers, and reinforced his administration's commitment to rural America. He also signed an executive order to invest in rural broadband installation, which is a crucial step for the 23 million Americans in rural areas who still do not have access to a high-speed, reliable internet connection.
Rolling back regulatory barriers to producers' success remains one of my top priorities, and I am glad to be able to work with the Trump administration on this initiative. President Trump noted in his address, "As we put money back in the pockets of all Americans, including our farmers and ranchers, we are also putting an end to the regulatory assault on your way of life."
From tax reform to rolling back the Waters of the U.S. rule, or WOTUS, we are off to a good start on getting government off the backs of producers. In fact, for every new regulation added last year, 22 were eliminated or reset.
WOTUS was one of the leading regulatory concerns for agriculture. When the Obama administration pushed forward with this rule in 2015 despite legal challenges, I introduced the house resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act. The Senate companion to my legislation passed Congress but was quickly vetoed by President Obama. I am pleased the Trump administration fulfilled its commitment to take swift action on sending WOTUS back to the drawing board and preventing a power grab by federal bureaucrats over producers' land and farming practices.
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With tax reform signed into law at the end of last year, producers now have more certainty when investing in their operations with full and immediate expensing. The doubling of the death tax exemption helps to ensure farmers and ranchers can pass their operations down to their children and grandchildren without having to jump through burdensome hoops.
Another important aspect of tax reform is the property tax deduction on agricultural land is kept intact. This means farmers and ranchers can continue to deduct the full amount of property tax on agricultural land and structures, as land remains a primary input in their work to feed the world.
There is still more work to do. For example, a fix was achieved in the final tax reform bill to prevent tax increases for ag co-ops. However, there are now concerns this fix could have unintended consequences for privately and publicly owned grain elevators and ethanol producers. I am focused on finding a resolution which maintains a level playing field — and making sure we get it done quickly and correctly.
I also continue to stress to the Trump administration the importance of NAFTA and opening more markets for producers. Over the past few months, I have spoken with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in Ways and Means Committee meetings and hearings to make the case for why we must keep this key trade agreement in place.
In his address to the American Farm Bureau, President Trump said, "On NAFTA, I am working very hard to get a better deal for our country and for our farmers and for our manufacturers." Within the last week, he also reiterated in the Wall Street Journal his intention to negotiate a modernized deal and said he will not rush the process. NAFTA is vital to U.S. agriculture, and I will continue working with my colleagues to keep up the drumbeat on trade.
With so many consequential issues currently impacting farmers and ranchers, especially as we prepare to undertake negotiations on the farm bill, President Trump's supportive speech to the American Farm Bureau showed rural America has a priority seat at the table. We must keep up the momentum on delivering results for U.S. agriculture. ❖