Legislative Action News, December 3, 2013

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U.S. Senate Committee Proposes Changing Tax Rules for Agriculture
Proposed Changes Would Harm Many Agricultural Operations
By Greg Krissek, Kennedy and Coe, LLC

The U.S. Senate Committee on Finance today issued a proposed set of tax code changes that would negatively and significantly affect many agricultural producers, both crop and livestock. 

The proposed rule change would limit the number of agricultural businesses that can use cash accounting, requiring many to shift to the accrual method of accounting. This move is opposed by many agricultural groups including the American Farm Bureau Federation as well as the Farm Financial Standards Council. Continue reading: http://www.kcoe.com/Press/TheCurrentNews/112843.aspx

Interested in getting involved in the ad hoc coalition group Farmers for Tax Fairness? Contact Greg Krissek at gkrissek@kcoe.com or (316) 691-3716. Read a letter sent to Dave Champ, Chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means.

EPA Proposes Cutting Ethanol
By Roy C. Ferguson II, CMC/CAC
From The Ferguson Ag Report, www.fergusongroupltd.com

Media reports on November 16 indicated that the Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] is proposing to reduce the amount of ethanol which is required to be mixed with gasoline used in automotive vehicles and a variety of other reciprocating engines. The announcement constitutes the first time that the 2007 Renewable Fuels Standard has been admitted by the Federal Government as not working as intended.

According to the EPA, a major part of the problem involving ethanol is automobile fuel systems and service stations are not set up to absorb more than about 10% ethanol. Moreover, there is reportedly little demand by consumers for more ethanol than is contained in E10.

The change is said to be likely to reduce by almost three billion gallons annually the amount of ethanol and other biofuels which are blended into gasoline during 2014. Even so, EPA officials are quoted as “still being committed to alternative fuels as part of a comprehensive energy strategy.” They acknowledge, however, that the current volumes of biofuels mandated by legislation amount to much greater volumes than the nation can handle. Adding to the basic problem, next-generation biofuels made from agricultural waste such as wood chips, corncobs, and various grasses have not become practical economically as quickly as Congress anticipated when the RFS legislation was passed.

Some sources have applauded EPA’s announcement as potentially providing welcome relief from “a government program that is an anachronism which is seriously flawed.” Conversely, various grain related, ag spokespersons have expressed dismay that the Obama Administration has reversed course and supports reducing corn-based ethanol production at a time when corn prices have fallen as a result of a record corn crop.

The New York Times reported a decline in the overall demand for motor fuel which is expected to continue further. Conversely, the 2007 legislation anticipated uninterrupted annual increases in fuel consumption. Data reportedly reflect, however, that despite today’s presence of millions of “flex fuel” vehicles, comparatively few consumers like the fuel. Most manufacturers of engines for garden equipment and boats also complain that ethanol damages their engines.

Environmentalists are reportedly divided on the issue. While modestly lower carbon production may be involved, the increased market for corn production is credited with increasing farmers’ use of fragile, marginal land. The bottom-line effect on retail fuel prices has long been disputed by ethanol critics.

Proposed 2014 Standards for Renewable Fuels

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a proposed rule on November 29, 2013 that would set 15.21 billion gallons to be blended into the motor fuel supply in 2014. That amount is 16 percent lower than the 18.15 billion gallons established for 2014 under the renewable fuels law passed in 2007. This is the first time that EPA has set the amount less than allowed under the Act.

Comments on the proposed rule are due by January 28, 2014.  ASFMRA is considering submitting formal comments.  Please contact Dennis Reyman (dreyman@stalcupag.com)or Merrill Swanson (mswanson@valbridge.com) if you would like to provide input into ASFMRA comments. The official rule can be found here: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-11-29/pdf/2013-28155.pdf

Crunch Time for Farm Bill

Time remains for Congress to pass a farm bill this calendar year but it is getting tighter with the House scheduled to be in session this week and next week through the 13th of December.  The Senate is not scheduled to return until the week of December 9th and will remain in session through the 20th.  So that leaves the week of the 9th as the only week when both bodies are in session at the same time. Getting a bill passed before the end of the calendar year is critical. Permanent law provisions kick-in starting January 1 with regard to dairy price support.  It was the threat of USDA purchasing milk in the commercial market that resulted in the current extension of the farm bill on January 1, 2012.  Talk of an extension is starting again, but so far little support exists as most legislators want to complete a new farm bill.

Only one formal meeting of the conferees has occurred so far and that was at the end of October. The four principals (Senators Stabenow and Cochran, Representatives Lucas and Peterson) and committee staff have been meeting privately throughout the month of November with the goal of reaching a “framework” agreement for a conference report.  While progress has been made, the framework agreement has not been reached. Differences remain unresolved in the commodity and nutrition titles.  While many other items have been resolved, no final decisions can be made on any of the farm bill titles until a final framework agreement is reached.

Vilsack stumps for farm bill in Fresno
Nov. 25, 2013 Todd Fitchette | Western Farm Press 

America still does not have a farm bill and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is seeking public assistance on the matter.

Vilsack was at California State University, Fresno on Nov. 20 to promote the farm bill, which he says will create jobs for rural America and generate a host of other benefits to enhance the economy. Continue reading: http://westernfarmpress.com/government/vilsack-stumps-farm-bill-fresno?NL=WFP-01&Issue=WFP-01_20131126_WFP-01_179&YM_RID=sgruba@asfmra.org&YM_MID=1436002&sfvc4enews=42&cl=article_2

Growing Number of American Farmers Selling Directly to Consumers
From The Kiplinger Agriculture Letter

For growing numbers of American farmers…Selling directly to consumers is taking off. Such sales will likely hit $10 billion by volume in ’14, a tenfold increase since ’05, based on USDA data.

Fueling the sizzling trend… Eager consumers striving to eat healthier and wanting to support local sustainable farming. This group includes local school districts, colleges, hospitals, etc., meeting government dietary standards by buying more fruits and veggies from local farms.
Login to Member Resources and download the latest edition: http://portal.asfmra.org/Scripts/4Disapi.dll/4DCGI/cms/review.html?Action=CMS_Document&DocID=27&Time=820983562&SessionID=62057594yhofx712z58m6ib178uofz4n8xa01t8fypx92ywdh85706r0j6bv566f&MenuKey=123

Official Notification – Bylaws and Policy and Procedure Manual Changes

The following proposed amendments to the Society’s Bylaws (#1) and Policy and Procedure Manual (#2 and #3) were presented to the membership. On November 12, 2013, at the ASFMRA Board of Directors Meeting in Reno, Nevada, the proposed amendments passed. You may obtain a current copy of the Bylaws and the Policy and Procedure Manual on the ASFMRA Web site or on AgProLink for the Bylaws click here and for the Policy and Procedure Manual click here. Download a copy of the changes.

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