READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, April 7th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, April 7th

Farmers and Ranchers Want Comprehensive Tax Reform

The House Agriculture Committee held a hearing this week to look at how the tax code currently in place affects farmers, ranchers, and the rural communities they live in. The American Farm Bureau was one of the organizations giving testimony. Pat Wolff, Senior Director of Congressional Relations, told the committee that farmers and ranchers need more flexibility built into the tax code. The goal would be to give farmers the flexibility to grow during the good times and help them adapt to situations often beyond their control when tough times hit. The House has proposed ideas for tax reform, many of which the Farm Bureau supports. Some of the proposals include reducing income tax rates, reducing capital gains taxes, immediate business expensing, and repealing the estate tax. Wolff says Farm Bureau has ideas that would improve the proposed changes to the tax code, including reinstating benefits like the deduction for business interest expense and guaranteeing the continuation of stepped-up basis, cash accounting, and like-kind exchanges. “Running a farm and ranch business is challenging under the best conditions,” Wolff said in her testimony. “Farmers and ranchers need a tax code that recognizes the unique financial challenges that impact them.”


Canada Trade Policies Hurting Rural America

A number of U.S. dairy organizations are asking the Trump Administration to take steps against Canadian trade policies they’re calling “protectionist.” They say Canada is shutting the door on American dairy exports in violation of trade agreements between the two countries. The National Milk Producers Federation, the U.S. Dairy Export Council, and the International Dairy Foods Association want the president and northern state governors to take immediate action in response to Canada’s violation of its trade commitments. The groups say the new “Class 7” pricing policy is expressly designed to place U.S. dairy exports at a disadvantage. As a result of the new policy, multiple dairy companies in New York and Wisconsin have had to tell their farmers the Canadian market for their exports has dried up. For some farmers, this means the company that processes their milk and ships it to Canada will no longer be accepting their milk starting in May. Tom Vilsack, President and CEO of the Dairy Export Council, says, “While farm families in the northeast and midwest are the ones suffering the immediate consequences, thousands more will suffer if Canada persists in using its programs to distort global milk powder markets that are critical to tens of thousands of dairy farmers.”


Six Biotech Giants Dropping to Three by Year’s End

Politico’s Morning Agriculture Report says the European Union’s approval of the ChemChina merger with Syngenta means the ball is likely rolling for the six biggest biotech companies to be whittled down to three by the end of this year. A day before the E.U. approved the deal, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission also okayed the deal as long as certain stipulations were met that require ChemChina to sell off parts of its business that overlap with Syngenta. Now that the U.S. and E.U. have approved the deal, the two companies need the approval of China, India, and Mexico to complete their $43 million deal. Politico says the next deal likely to close will be the biggest. It’s the $130 billion merger of Dow Chemical and DuPont, which still requires the approval of the U.S., Brazil, and China. There’s still a $66 billion dollar deal between Bayer CropSciences and Monsanto to complete yet. The two companies are still looking for approval from up to 30 nation groups. However, they do expect to get an answer from the U.S. and the E.U. by the end of June, which they say would put the deal on track to be completed by the last quarter of this year.


Ag Groups Oppose Air Traffic Control Privatization

The Ag Retailers Association, the National Farmers Union, and a host of other groups sent a letter to Congress opposing the possible privatizing of the nation’s air traffic control system. The groups say a proposal to privatize the national air traffic system is being pushed by many of the bigger airlines. The idea would take air traffic control out from under Congressional oversight and put it under the control of a board made up of mostly commercial interests. The board would oversee things like taxes and fees, to airport investments and access. The letter arrived this week as the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee is holding a hearing on reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration. The letter says, “Rural communities, agriculture, and small businesses would stand to lose the most under a privatized system. There would be no Congressional oversight to ensure that all stakeholders and communities have access to equal transportation. A privatized system likely will direct most resources to the larger airport hubs in urban areas.”


Kansas Senators Ask USDA for Flexibility

Senator Pat Roberts and Congressman Roger Marshall, both Kansas Republicans, sent a letter this week to the U.S. Department of Agriculture on behalf of Kansas ranchers affected by the recent wildfires. The letter requested some flexibility on the part of the USDA in responding to what’s been a significant natural disaster. The lawmakers said in the letter that over 700,000 acres across the state were burned and local officials are still assessing the total damages. “As a result of the wildfires, farmers and ranchers across Kansas are in need of assistance to protect their property, livestock, and livelihood in a number of ways,” they said in the letter. They went on to say response efforts to this kind of disaster will require a certain amount of flexibility to respond appropriately to local and county circumstances. “We’d like to request that USDA considers any further requests, particularly those requests that have garnered local consensus, including additional conservation practices eligible for emergency grazing.”  


Drone Operators on Farms Asked to be Extra Cautious

The National Agricultural Aviation Association wants to remind farmers using drones on their operations this year to remember to keep an eye out for agricultural aircraft flying low over their fields. Agricultural aviators often fly as low as ten feet off the ground, and this year may find themselves in the same airspace as drones that are licensed to fly as high as 400 feet off the ground. That’s why the National Ag Aviation Association is urging farmers to do what they can to watch out for the larger aircraft. Executive Director Andrew Moore says, “When flying at speeds over 140 miles per hour, agricultural aviators likely won’t see a UAV. That’s why it’s so important for drone operators to protect aviators any way they can.” In tests conducted by the Colorado Agricultural Aviators Association and the state of Colorado, not one pilot could continually track a 28-inch drone while flying at regular speeds. They may be spotted for a second but won’t be continually seen, so it’s up to drone operators to prevent potential collisions.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service