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"One of the challenges we in agriculture face, as people understand less and less about what we do, is maintaining our freedom to operate, and being able to operate as advancing science suggests is the most productive and efficient," says John Anderson, deputy senior economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation. “All this is bound up in the idea of social license: Do people understand what we do? And do they trust us enough to let us do it?"
TERRY BEASLEY, from left, Amory, Miss.; Tommy Moody, Belmont, Miss.; Don Thompson, Golden, Miss.; and Danny Dilworth, Rienzi, Miss., were among those attending the annual Mississippi State University Producer Advisory Council meeting for north Mississippi.
With the farm bill a done deal except for implementation, other issues remain on the Capitol Hill stove — some getting Congressional attention, says John Anderson, others relegated to the back burners.
Anderson, deputy senior economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation in Washington, spoke at the annual Mississippi State University Producer Advisory Council meeting for north Mississippi farmers.
Among issues with impact for agriculture, he says, are:
Tax reform: “We received word this morning that Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., chair of the Ways and Means Committee, will announce a plan for comprehensive tax reform.
“I think everyone recognizes there is a crying need for changes in the tax law and the way we collect taxes. But there are some concerns in the ag community about specific tax reform proposals.”
Among them he says, is elimination of cash accounting for agricultural enterprises. “That would be a really big deal. It would take away a lot of the flexibility in how farmers do their taxes and manage their expenses from year to year.
“The argument on the ag side is that, by virtue of the nature of our businesses, we can have pretty volatile income flows, and cash accounting allows us to smooth that out in a way that’s not terribly disruptive to anyone else. Agriculture is essentially the only industry that’s allowed to use cash accounting, and there’s potential for this to be on the chopping block.”
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Also in danger, Anderson says, is Section 179 depreciation, an accelerated expensing provision that allows farmers to expense the entire cost of equipment purchases — in some cases, in a single year. “This has been an important tool to help farm businesses manage their tax liability from year to year.
“Tax reform is going to be a very important topic for agriculture over the next few weeks, as these proposals come out, and maybe for the rest of the year.”
Renewable fuels standard: “This is a really detailed, important, and controversial issue,” Anderson says. “The EPA has proposed changing the RFS for 2014 to reduce the amount of renewable fuels below levels in the 2007 Energy Defense and Security Act. They’ll probably put out a final rule before the middle of the year, and until then there will be a lot of back-and-forth discussion of the issue.”
Anderson says he doesn’t think there will be a significant push in Washington to move away from using agricultural crops for renewable fuels production.
“It’s a controversial topic in Washington and all over the country. My personal feeling is that they won’t move away from it, because at this point there are very strongly entrenched interests in that sector, and it would be very disruptive to make a wholesale change. We’ve had success with corn ethanol, and those industries are important in states where they’re established. They don’t want to just jerk the rug out from them.