Lame Duck or Dead Duck?
Washington, D.C. is back to business after the election. The President has left town, and the country, for that matter, and headed for Southeast Asia to get wined, dined and patted on the back. Congress is in town and in session, but that is the problem. No one can tell if they are or not. Nothing is happening but posturing.
I have to be truthful – our Wyoming Congressional delegation is not the problem. We have some of the hardest working members in Congress who fight for us. In a sense, they are victims like you and I.
The national ag organizations have been trying to get this lame duck or dead duck Congress to act on the Farm Bill and other issues, but we are hearing nothing may happen.
Besides a comprehensive Farm Bill, agriculture really needs to have the current estate tax extended or done away with. We also need to have the President and Congress eliminate all the needless regulatory burdens placed on it the last four years, especially EPA rulings, and we need to expand our ag trade opportunities to give America a level trading floor. Nationwide, we need an energy policy like what our Governor Mead is doing on a state level and through the National Republican Governor’s association.
There are a number of measures Congress could do to get a Farm Bill passed. A number of Republicans want to split the Farm Bill and take the controversial part – the nutrition section – out of the bill. Senator Charles Grassley from Iowa said just getting the current Farm Bill extended for a year would be good. Agricultural issues for the most part have been bipartisan issues. I think those days are over. I read that USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack had suggested before the election that farm programs and funds for rural communities could be at risk for more extreme cuts, as Congress looks for ways to offset tax breaks or avoid cuts in defense. He said, “You are talking about a significant reduction in rural America, and that is what’s at stake here.” With high commodity prices, except for sheep and wool, Congress doesn’t seem to hold too much interest in the Farm Bill, but they do want to eliminate direct payments to make farmers rely more heavily on crop insurance.
The Death Tax is also staring us in the face. We now have a $5 million exemption, $10 million for married couples, and a 35 percent rate. If nothing happens, the tax goes back to a $1 million exemption for individuals and a 55 percent rate. While doing away with the estate tax would be great, a $1 million exemption doesn’t do much for us with the price of land these days.
America has always been the breadbasket of the world. Not only do we have to feed ourselves, but a lot of other people too. With one to two years of drought behind us in the Southwest and West and nothing to say it will change next year, agriculture needs something to hang our hat on. Let’s prepare for the worst, but hope for the best.