Wednesday, July 31, 2013
"We invited lawmakers from Idaho's urban legislative districts to our wheat harvest," said Gem County President Vaughn Jensen. "We wanted to show them what we do come harvest time so the next time they have a farm vote, they know what we're all about."
Gem County farmers lined up six combines in a field near Black Canyon Dam, lawmakers rode along with farmers while they harvested the last of the 2013 wheat crop. The last field of wheat were harvested by farmers and lawmakers in just over an hour at sunset.
"I can't believe how much wheat we harvested in just a few minutes," said Gannon. "I learned a lot and it was fun too."
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Farmers, ranchers share tax reform priorities with Congress
Washington-As the Senate Finance Committee takes a hard look at what should stay and what should go in the tax code, farmers and ranchers are urging lawmakers to consider comprehensive reform that address individuals as well as corporations.
More than 96 percent of farms and 75 percent of farm sales are taxed under IRS provisions affecting individual taxpayers, according to Farm Bureau. Any tax reform proposal that fails to include the individual tax code will not help, and could even hurt, the bulk of agricultural producers who could lose business deductions but not benefit from lower corporate rates.
In a recent letter to Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), chair and ranking member, respectively, of the Finance Committee, American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman focused on some of the much-needed tax tools that help producers deal with the uncertainties of farming and ranching.
Among those tools is cash accounting, which "combined with the ability to accelerate expenses and defer income gives farmers and ranchers the flexibility to manage their tax burden on an annual basis," Stallman explained.
"Because farmers and ranchers make single large purchases, Farm Bureau supports maintaining the $500,000 Sec. 179 small business expensing limitation and not reducing the $2 million acquisition limit," Stallman wrote.
"Farm Bureau also supports allowing farmers and ranchers to use bonus depreciation; expense soil and water conservation expenditures; deduct the cost of raising dairy and breeding cattle; deduct fertilizer and soil conditioner costs; deduct the cost of raising timber; depreciate single-purpose ag structures over shorter lives; and deduct reforestation expenses."
Also important are tax provisions that accelerate expensing and depreciation to allow farmers and ranchers to better manage cash flow, minimize tax liabilities and reduce borrowing. The ability to immediately expense capital purchases also offers the benefit of reducing the record-keeping burden associated with the depreciation.
Capital gains taxes continue to be a problem for farmers and ranchers because the tax rate when they sell land and assets will almost always be taxed at the higher 20-percent rate, Stallman noted. Farm Bureau supports a maximum 15 percent capital gains tax rate for all taxpayers, as well as an exclusion for farmland that remains in agriculture or is sold to a family member who continues the family business.
In addition, because the capital gains taxes that come due when assets are sold to fund a farmer's or rancher's retirement amount to a retirement tax, producers are calling for a provision that allows the deferral of capital gains taxes from the sale of property and machinery if the proceeds from the sale are put into a retirement account. Taxes would be due when the money is taken out of the retirement account.
Also an ongoing concern are estate taxes. Until permanent repeal is achieved, the exemption and gift tax exemption should be increased and more farmland should be able to be valued for agricultural use rather than development use for estate tax purposes using special use valuation (Sec. 2032A). The continuation of stepped-up basis is also important.
While broadening the base and lowering rates are important to any tax reform effort, a lower income tax rate may not adequately compensate farmers if they lose too many tax deductions. This is why Farm Bureau recommends that farmers and ranchers be allowed to apply the tax benefits of unclaimable deductions and credits to previous and/or future tax years.
In that vein, Farm Bureau supports the continuation of the deduction for income from domestic production expenses (Sec. 199); the five-year carry back period for net operating losses; the exclusion of cost sharing payments; and the deduction for health and long-term care insurance by the self-employed. The ag chemical security credit and the exclusion of cancellation of indebtedness income of farmers should also remain part of the tax code.
Monday, July 29, 2013
Armchair Farmers Don’t Feed the USA
Washington--In “Armchair Farmers Don’t Feed the USA: Opposing View,” an opinion piece in USA Today, American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman writes that farm bills are written for the bad times, not the good.
Further, “Congress—with the help of farmers—has taken major steps to reform farm policy and cut federal spending,” Stallman notes. “While everyone has their opinions, including armchair farmers, it’s those who are actually working the land and taking significant risks who feed our nation,” he concluded.
Farm Bureau Sends Letter in Support of S. 526
Washington--In a letter last week to Sens.Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah.), Farm Bureau endorsed S. 526, the Rural Heritage Conservation Extension Act. The permanent legislation would allow up to 100 percent of qualified farmers’ income to be deducted for land easements and can be carried forward for 16 years. The benefit is not only for rural, agricultural areas but also for suburban and urban areas because it benefits the environment as a whole.
A bill of the same name was introduced Wednesday by Reps. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.) and Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) in the House. If Congress does not move forward with the legislation,
the deduction will be limited to 30 percent and the amount of time that the deduction can be carried forward will only be six years.
Friday, July 26, 2013
New Bill Protects Farmers’ Personal Information
Washington--Earlier this week Sens. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) introduced the Farmer Identity Protection Act legislation that would protect farmers and ranchers by prohibiting the Environmental Protection Agency from disclosing their private and confidential information to the public.Earlier this year, in response to Freedom of Information Act requests, EPA released the personal and private information (names, phone numbers and email addresses) of many livestock and poultry owners from across the nation.
Farm Bureau and several other farm and agricultural organizations recently sent a letter to Grassley expressing support for the legislation.
Thursday, July 25, 2013
Boise--Longtime Idaho Farm Bureau range manager Wally Butler attended his retirement party at Idaho Farm Bureau Headquarters in Boise. Butler will maintain his office at IFBF and continue to consult on range issues.
Crop Insurance to Cost Americans 2 Cents Per Meal
Washington--According to the recent 10-year budget projections from the Congressional Budget Office, Americans will spend 2 cents per meal on crop insurance through 2023. The projection is up only 1 cent per meal from the costs estimated for fiscal years 2000-2011.
The CBO’s estimate was calculated from projected crop insurance program outlays, the Census Bureau’s U.S. population projections, the Department of Commerce’s data on consumption spending on food and the presumption American consumers eat three meals daily.
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Wally Butler retires
Boise--After a lifetime of work on the range, long time range manager Wally Butler retired July 1st.
Butler served as the Idaho Farm Bureau range and livestock Specialist for the past 15 years.
The University of Idaho graduate has a bachelor of science, animal science and a masters degree in range management.
During Butler’s long career he ranched for more than 15 years in the Kendrick area before working his way back into the range consultant business, sold insurance and landed his dream job with the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation.
At the IFBF Butler also served as a salaried lobbyist and worked closely with Farm Bureau members who as a perk of membership, got his political, dog, horse and range expertise from Bonners Ferry to Bear Lake, year round.
Although Butler has officially retired he will still maintain his office at Farm Bureau’s Boise headquarters, 500 West Washington.
“I may be gone but I’m still involved in the range business, and welcome calls from friends and members. I have no problems answering rangeland questions,” said Butler.
A reception will be held to recognize Wally’s Farm Bureau career on Thursday, July 25, 2013, from 2:00-4:00 p.m., at the Boise Federation Office.
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
July, 22, 2013 – Boise, Idaho – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA accepted 1.7 million acres nationwide into CRP as a result of the 2013 general sign-up. Of that total, 50,954 acres are in Idaho.
“Most of the land will be in Conservation Practice (CP) 1 or 2 which includes introduced and native grasses,” said Ron Abbott, Farm Program Chief for USDA Farm Service Agency in Idaho. “A smaller number of acres will be in CP4, which provides a variety of food for wildlife, as well as CP3 which includes planting trees to provide multipurpose forest benefits.”
Under CRP, farmers and ranchers plant grasses and trees in fields and along streams or rivers. The plantings prevent soil and nutrients from washing into waterways, reduce soil erosion that may otherwise contribute to poor air and water quality, and provide valuable habitat for wildlife.
In 2012, CRP helped to reduce nitrogen and phosphorous losses from farm fields by 605 million pounds and 121 million pounds respectively. CRP has restored more than two million acres of wetlands and associated buffers and reduces soil erosion by more than 300 million tons per year. CRP also provides $2.0 billion annually to landowners-dollars that make their way into local economies, supporting small businesses and creating jobs.
In addition, CRP sequesters more carbon dioxide than any other conservation program in the country, and also reduces both fuel and fertilizer use. Yearly, CRP results in carbon sequestration equal to taking almost 10 million cars off the road.
Monday, July 22, 2013
Farm Bill Going to Conference
Washington--Although Congress is a long way from completing a farm bill, one hurdle was cleared late yesterday when the Senate requested a formal conference with the House.
Yet-to-be-appointed conferees will be tasked with reconciling the House farm bill approved last week without a nutrition title with the Senate version that funds federal nutrition programs including food stamps. According to a Politico article, Senate Ag Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) expressed confidence that the Senate and House could come up with a bipartisan compromise, although the bills have vast differences.
Friday, July 19, 2013
Thursday, July 18, 2013
AFBF files suit to protect farmers’ privacy
Washington--Protecting farmers' and ranchers' right to privacy is a top priority, said the American Farm Bureau Federation, which took legal action recently to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from publicly releasing personal information about thousands of farmers and ranchers and their families.
EPA's efforts to gather and disseminate data on livestock and poultry operations began as early as 2010, when EPA settled a lawsuit with environmental groups. In the settlement, EPA agreed to propose a rule requiring livestock and poultry farmers to provide the agency with specific information such as their locations and personal contact information, which the agency in turn would make available to the public. Facing strong criticism from AFBF and Congress, EPA withdrew the proposal in July 2012, but continued to gather the information using data collected from state regulators.
Earlier this year, in response to FOIA requests from three environmental groups, EPA handed over all the data it had gathered from state regulators. The records included thousands of livestock and poultry farmers' and ranchers' names, home addresses, GPS coordinates and personal contact information. Farmers and ranchers in 29 states were affected.
After AFBF and other farm groups objected, EPA admitted that some personal information had been wrongly disclosed. But the agency also took the position that it has no obligation to protect the vast majority of personal information it has obtained. Just this month, AFBF learned of EPA's plans to release the same information as before, plus additional personal information from farmers in Minnesota, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oklahoma and Washington, in response to several new FOIA requests. The threat of this further disclosure is what prompted the AFBF suit.
"We are sticking up for the tens of thousands of farmers and ranchers whose personal information would end up in the public domain," said AFBF President Bob Stallman. "This lawsuit is about the government's unjustified intrusion into citizens' private lives."
According to AFBF, the majority of farmers and ranchers, as well as their families, don't just work on the farm-they live there, too. By turning over farmers' names and addresses for public consumption, EPA is inviting intrusion into the privacy of farmers and their families on a nationwide scale.
"We support transparency and frequently advocate for increased government transparency," said Stallman. "But publicly sharing spreadsheet upon spreadsheet of tens of thousands of peoples' names, addresses and other personal information is not transparency in the workings of government-it is an invasion of the personal privacy of citizens.
AFBF said it does not necessarily object to the collection of aggregated data of farm and ranch business information for government use, but in the wrong hands personal location information could disrupt farm activity and lead to farm equipment theft or even sabotage or criminal mischief, especially for those farms that store fertilizer and chemicals or have large numbers of animals on the farm.
"In the scope of everything happening nationally with the exposure of citizens' private information, it's time to say enough is enough," said Stallman. "Farm Bureau is not only standing up for farmers in this case, but we are also standing up for all citizens who shouldn't have their personal information publicly disseminated by their government."
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Every summer the Presidents meet to discuss issues and map out the Farm Bureau's direction for the coming year.
Chairman of the House State Affairs Committee Representative Tom Loertscher and Senator Steven Thayn discussed controversial Medicaid Expansion.
Summer Presidents also met with Clark Johnston who discussed the nation's market outlook for the next four months.
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Pioneer Water Situation Somewhat Improved;
Longer Irrigation Season May Be Extended
Caldwell- Despite the on-going siege of scorching temperatures, Pioneer Irrigation District conservation efforts by both water users and managers are paying off by helping to extend the delivery of irrigation water longer than anticipated in early April.
Officials initially had feared that low water supplies and high temperatures might force water deliveries to end in mid-August, but based on current conditions, now hope to be able to extend the season a bit longer. The rapidly changing water situation, coupled with unseasonably hot temperatures prevents Pioneer from accurately calculating just how much longer.
“Strong conservation efforts by our thousands of users have really paid huge dividends so far. We had originally planned to cut the water supply by 30 percent, but have been able to get by with only a 20 percent reduction, due to lower than normal supplemental sources. We are not out of the woods by any means but we sure are more optimistic than we were back in April and May,” said Mark Zirschky, Pioneer Water Superintendent.
A meager snowpack coupled with early melting meant the natural flow water to which Pioneer is entitled was quickly exhausted. That forced Pioneer to begin using its water stored in the Boise River reservoirs much earlier than normal to supplement river flows.
The Pioneer Board of Directors along with Zirschky have the District focused on providing enough water to farmers to save the harvest of crops that are in the ground. But that strategy means Pioneer will have exhausted most if not all of its storage water from reservoirs by the end of this irrigation season. That will result in little or no carryover water will be available to serve as water supply insurance next year.
“It’s crystal clear that we are going to be at the mercy of Mother Nature. We really need a good snowpack this coming winter or we will face an even more difficult water situation next year,” he added.
Monday, July 15, 2013
Reforming our Broken Immigration System
By Bob Stallman
President, American Farm Bureau
Washington--America’s farmers and ranchers need a balanced immigration reform bill that includes a fair and workable farm labor provision. That is what we got in June, when the Senate passed S. 744, The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, was welcomed by farmers and ranchers.
Passage of the Senate bill was the first step toward securing a comprehensive agricultural labor plan that works for all sectors of agriculture and across all regions of our nation. The Senate-passed bill will help ensure an adequate supply of farm labor. It also provides increased surveillance of high-risk areas along our borders.
Even with that progress, much work remains as we now focus on the House, where we will continue to work toward passage of responsible immigration reform legislation that includes an earned adjustment for experienced undocumented agricultural workers and a new, flexible guest worker program.
Helping members of Congress and the public understand that farmers and ranchers depend on the workers who show up every day to tend our crops and raise livestock has been challenging at times. However, we press on because we know responsible immigration reform is imperative for the continued success of American agriculture.
A point that we must continue to drive home is that one of the best ways to improve border security is to create a legal, workable way for farm workers to enter our country. With less time and resources wasted locking up lettuce harvesters, the focus can shift to where it properly belongs—keeping those with criminal intentions out of our country.
Although the specific labor needs of farmers across our nation vary, we will all benefit from labor reform. We need a solution that addresses agriculture’s unique labor needs with a market-based, flexible agricultural worker program, which reflects real-life workforce challenges for all crop and livestock producers.
Reforms to our broken immigration system will assure that farmers and ranchers have a legal, stable supply of workers, both in the short- and long-term for all types of agriculture. It is our preference to grow our nation’s food in our nation, and having the labor required to do that is in the best interest of all Americans.
Saturday, July 13, 2013
Statement by Bob Stallman, President
American Farm Bureau Federation
Regarding House Passage of Farm Bill
Washington--“The American Farm Bureau Federation looks forward to moving ahead with fundamental farm policy legislation, following House passage today of H.R. 2642. While we don’t yet know what the next steps will be, we will be working with both sides of the aisle and both chambers of Congress to ensure passage of a new five-year farm bill.
“While we were hopeful the farm bill would not be split, nor permanent law repealed, we will now focus our efforts on working with lawmakers to deliver a farm bill to the president’s desk for his signature by September.”
Friday, July 12, 2013
Farm Bureau Opposes Farm Bill Split; House Moves Forward
Washington--Today, in a letter to House members, Farm Bureau expressed its opposition to the split farm bill, stating concern that the absence of the nutrition title would make passage a difficult task.
The Obama administration also expressed opposition of the split due to the inadequate amount of time given by the House for review of the bill. The administration said the 608-page bill lacked sufficient commodity and crop insurance reforms, doesn’t invest in renewable energy and fails to reauthorize nutrition programs.
The House Rules Committee approved the measure, 9-4, late Wednesday night. The full House is expected to vote on the newly split farm bill today.
Thursday, July 11, 2013
From Capitol Hill's Roll Call
Rep. Mike Simpson and Idaho Farm Bureau President Frank Priestley earlier this year. Simpson accepts the Farm Bureau's friend of Agriculture Award.
Simpson Slams Club for Growth
By Matt FullerPosted at 12:43 a.m. July 11
Washington--Mike Simpson is no fan of the Club for Growth. But that may be okay, since the feeling appears to be mutual.
On the same day that Club for Growth announced that it would sponsor a primary challenger to the Idaho Republican, Simpson told CQ Roll Call that members who listen to the conservative group ought to rethink why they are in Congress.
If members are here just to listen to Club for Growth, Simpson said, “If that makes you vote one way or another, then hell, fire your staff and just listen to whatever their scorecard is.”
“I think there are a certain number of members who are influenced substantially by the Club for Growth and Heritage Action and, ‘Oh, man, what that does to my scorecard and everything,’” Simpson said.
He said Wednesday night that groups like Heritage Action and Club for Growth were to blame for tanking the farm bill, and because they did, Congress would eventually end up with worse legislation.
“What’s going to happen, because they sunk the farm bill, a Republican farm bill, that had reforms in it [for] both the farm programs and in the [food stamp] programs, what they’re going to end up with is a bill that is more to their dislike,” Simpson said. “The bill moves more in the direction that the Club for Growth and Heritage Action don’t want.”
While frustrated with the impact that the outside groups have had on the legislative process, Simpson said he was unfazed by the primary challenge.
“Club for Growth is who they are. They do what they do.”
“It doesn’t bother me that the Club for Growth is going after me,” he said. “That’s okay. That’s the way politics are, and if I can’t defend myself, then that’s the way it is.”
Grocers Summit in Washington to Discuss GMO Labeling
Washington--The Grocery Manufacturers Association is meeting with more than 300 companies today in Washington, D.C., to discuss genetically modified foods in response to state GMO labeling requirements. Currently, two states have enacted legislation requiring GMO labeling and 25 states have introduced legislation or initiative petitions. The summit will mainly focus on where the GMO labels should be placed on food packages.
Blake Hurst, president of Missouri Farm Bureau, wrote in a recent blog post on the topic, “It will be in the industry’s interest to have as benign a label as possible, while the backers of GMO labeling will no doubt lobby for an iridescent skull and crossbones.” He also provided worthwhile conversation starters such as, “By consuming this product, you’re helping farmers to cut their use of insecticides by millions of pounds. Enjoy!”
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
GOP Moves Toward a Farm Bill Split
Washington--In a caucus meeting Tuesday, House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) announced his support of splitting the farm bill, joining Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) to move the measure forward. The House farm bill, which was defeated in June, 234-195, could now potentially be divided into two sections—the nutrition title and the farm portion, with the latter including a provision repealing the 1938 and 1949 permanent law.
House Republicans would need 218 votes for the idea to be presented to the Rules Committee and possibly considered on the House floor as early as Thursday. House leaders are seeking a closed rule, meaning no amendments would be allowed to be offered. The separated nutrition title would be considered at a later date.
Farm Bureau opposes the splitting of the farm bill and the elimination of the 1938 and 1949 permanent law.
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
AFBF Files Suit to Protect Farmers’ Privacy
Washington--The American Farm Bureau Federation filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency Friday to prohibit the public sharing of personal information about thousands of farmers and ranchers and their families. EPA is expected to respond to several Freedom of Information Act requests, which prompted AFBF to file a lawsuit and seek a temporary restraining order before the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota.
By seeking an immediate court order stopping EPA’s imminent release, AFBF hopes to stall disclosures of farmers’ and ranchers’ names, home addresses, GPS coordinates and personal contact information until a court can clarify EPA’s obligation to keep personal information about citizens private. The National Pork Producers Council joined AFBF in the lawsuit.
Earlier this year, EPA released personal information about thousands of livestock and poultry farmers and ranchers in 29 states in response to FOIA requests from three environmental organizations.
Monday, July 8, 2013
FB Revamps Agricultural Safety Awareness Website
Washington--The Farm Bureau Health and Safety Network has given its Agricultural Safety Awareness Program’s website,www.agsafetynow.com, a makeover. The new site is more user friendly, allowing visitors to easily search and locate resources, stay updated on health and safety news and events, and request AFBF’s health and safety training materials. All materials are categorized in four sections: equipment and traffic safety; occupational health and wellness; farmstead; and youth agricultural safety and health. Visitors can also use the site to find contact information for their state Farm Bureau’s health and safety leaders.
Friday, July 5, 2013
South Korea Resumes U.S. Wheat Import Purchases
Washington--South Korea lifted the ban on U.S. wheat imports today. The ban was put in place following the discovery on an Oregon farm of a strain of genetically engineered wheat unapproved for sale. The decision to end the suspension was made after the local food safety regulator found no unapproved genetically-modified wheat in tests conducted on recent shipments from the U.S. The ban has been in effect since May 31.