Weld farmers, ranchers give Rep. Gardner plenty of advice
February 21, 2012
Local farmers, ranchers and agriculture organizations sent a U.S. lawmaker back to Washington with an earful.
U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., was in Greeley on Monday to hear comments about the 2012 Farm Bill – at which time he heard suggestions and concerns about estate taxes on agriculture land, efforts to bring more young people into the industry, crop insurance programs, access to capital for young producers, and the need for the agriculture industry to in some way distance itself from all of the other programs that fall under the Farm Bill.
Gardner, whose 4th Congressional District is the 11th most ag-productive among the 435 districts across the U.S., didn’t have much time to respond to the inquiries, but he expressed sympathy with those who spoke. He told them that – as the only U.S. representative working in the agriculture industry – he would stress their message to others in Washington.
Gardner and other lawmakers are in the midst of piecing together the 2012 Farm Bill. Farm bills are the primary agricultural and food policy tool of the federal government. The 2008 Farm Bill – a $288 billion, five-year bill that was passed into law on June 18, 2008 – is set to expire Sept. 30.
Cuts to some farm programs are expected as part of the farm bill, as lawmakers continue their attempts at reining in the nation’s debt.
Those who brought their concerns to Gardner included Brent Boydston, vice president of public policy with the Colorado Farm Bureau, state Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, local farmers and ranchers and others representing growers in Colorado.
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Some who stepped up to the podium referred to the federal estate tax as the “No. 1 killer of farms and ranches,” emphasizing to Gardner that many heirs of agriculture land – who inherit valuable ground but don’t have large amounts of cash onhand – are forced to sell some of their ground or water rights just to pay estate taxes.
They noted that if Congress doesn’t act, at the end of the year the exemption for the federal estate tax will only be $1 million, and that with some farm ground in the area now valued at $5,000 an acre, many farms and ranches would easily surpass the $1 million-exemption mark.
They stressed that as agriculture land continues to appreciate – as it has rapidly in recent years – estate taxes will only become more expensive.
One producer said the amount that his family has spent on estate taxes over the years to keep the land in the family is about the equivalent to having bought the property three times.
Those who spoke also emphasized that as input costs and feed costs continue to rise for farmers and ranchers, there will be more of a need for insurance programs – certainly if, in the future, direct payment programs for farmers are cut and the agriculture industry doesn’t experience the same success it has seen during the past couple of years.
They also said, above all, more must be done to allow access to capital for young farmers to get started, with agriculture operations becoming more expensive.