In a letter to congressional leaders on Tuesday, the American Farm Bureau Federation pushed back against the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation plan that is a cornerstone of President Joe Biden's agenda.
DTN reported this week the House Agriculture Committee is set to meet on Friday to consider how to spend $135 billion set aside in the budget reconciliation plan for food and agriculture. https://www.dtnpf.com/…
The House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee will meet this week as well to begin looking for ways to pay for the $3.5 trillion package by raising taxes on corporations and wealthy Americans.
Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall wrote congressional leaders that he is "deeply concerned about the reconciliation package" that Congress will take up. "The overall price tag, the proposed tax increases, and the limited ability for stakeholders to engage with lawmakers is troubling."
Farm Bureau takes up the charge being led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups to stop the tax increases. The Chamber started its own lobbying and advertising push this week against the tax proposals. Farm Bureau's letter noted the federal budget, the Senate infrastructure bill and the budget reconciliation costs. "And now Congress is considering another massive partisan spending bill, this one set to be paid for by massive tax hikes on the farmers and ranchers who ensured our nation's food supply remained secure during the pandemic."
The letter stated concerns over proposed changes in capital gains that would tax capital gains at death, treat capital gains as ordinary income and raise the top tax rate from 37% to 39.6%. Then there is the potential elimination of the Section 199A small business deduction, "for which 98% of farms and ranches are eligible," AFBF pointed out. A cap on 1031 like-kind exchanges, "or imposing a methane tax or a carbon border adjustment tax" are also issues raised by Farm Bureau. And Farm Bureau raised doubts that language could be added to protect farmers from some of these tax hikes. "Despite all claims to the contrary, these tax increases will have a disproportionate impact on American family farms, stifle economic growth and rural prosperity and could lead to further consolidation across the agricultural sector putting multi-generational family farms in jeopardy."
Other agricultural groups sent a letter last week with a collection of different organization calling for a $30 billion boost in conservation programs; $5 billion for sustainable or organic research priorities; $3 billion for rural development projects; and $10 billion for debt relief to producers. The $135 billion overall would boost the baseline opportunities when Congress eventually debates a new farm bill.
Farm Bureau countered that there might be an opportunity to boost conservation or other programs, but "this should be done in a transparent and bipartisan fashion," which is an argument raised earlier this week by a letter from Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee. Farm Bureau called for public hearings to identify challenges for the next farm bill. Without that widespread bipartisan support, Farm Bureau stated, "Many of these proposals, if implemented, could set back American agriculture for generations to come."
AFBF letter to members of Congress: https://www.fb.org/…
Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com
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USDA to Provide Grants to Farm, Slaughter and Grocery Workers
Agriculture Secretary Vilsack announced on Tuesday that USDA will make $600 payments to farmworker and meatpacking workers to help with pandemic-related health and safety costs.
The $700 million in competitive funding will be available through the new Farm and Food Workers Relief (FFWR) grant program.
The money will be distributed by nonprofit and labor group-related entities that can prove they can reach the workers. It may take as long as one or two years to reach everyone who deserves the payments, Vilsack said in a call to reporters. The workers will not have to show receipts to prove they are entitled to the aid. Vilsack said that the number of workers affected by the pandemic is "sobering."
Vilsack said he could not say whether undocumented workers can get the payments, because there are legal issues that have to be resolved. But he said personally he believes that as many workers should be helped as possible.
There is no requirement in terms of vaccination status, Vilsack said.
Additionally, to recognize the essential role and costs borne by front-line grocery workers, $20 million of this amount has been set aside for at least one pilot program to support grocery workers, and to test options for reaching them in the future. That program is not large enough to cover all grocery workers, but Vilsack said he hopes Congress will provide more money that could be used to aid other food production workers and grocery store workers.
Vilsack said he plans another announcement of $700 million in grants for producers, farmers and others, including seafood processors.
Vilsack was joined on a call to reporters by United Farm Workers Foundation Executive Director Diana Tellefson Torres and United Food and Commercial Workers International President Marc Perrone. UFCW cited that at least 482 food and grocery workers had died from the coronavirus and at least 93,800 such workers had been infected or exposed to the virus.
Torres and Perrone stressed that farm workers and meatpacking workers could not shield themselves from the pandemic by working from home, and had to go to the fields and the plants. They also noted that the workers found it difficult to socially distance while performing their duties.
The new program is funded by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 and is part of USDA's Build Back Better efforts to respond and recover from the pandemic. There will be a peer review and an internal administrative review when the work is done.
Agriculture Committee Chairman David Scott, D-Ga., and Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, issued news releases praising the aid program.
- USDA Invests $700 million in Grants to Provide Relief to Farm and Food Workers Impacted by COVID-19 https://www.usda.gov/…
Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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