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Many issues for Congress to resolve after elections
With the November election just around the corner, Congress has been more focused on campaigns than pending legislation. A lame duck session is now ready to start Nov. 15 with many issues to resolve.
“Not much has been accomplished. How much will they be able to get done by the end of the year?” asked Mark Maslyn, American Farm Bureau’s public policy director. “At the end of the year, Congress will have to deal with the spending package, how to fund this government. They have not passed one appropriations bill in the past year and so they will have an omnibus spending package that they will have to enact.”
Farm Bureau is hoping Congress enacts estate tax reforms and extends several expiring tax provisions before time runs out. If Congress doesn’t act on estate tax reform by Jan. 1, the tax rate will jump from zero to 55 percent, with a $1 million exemption.
Farm Bureau also is concerned that the capital gains tax will jump from 15 percent to 20 percent. The average amount of capital gains that farmers report is about 50 percent higher than the average taxpayer.
Individual income tax rates also are set to be higher and the ethanol blenders tax credit and ethanol import duty will end unless Congress takes action by Dec. 31. The biodiesel tax incentives have expired and need to be renewed. Ag-related businesses have been hit hard by congressional inaction on some of the renewable fuels tax provisions, Maslyn said.
“You’ve got biodiesel plants that have been shut down, workers laid off because of the uncertainty of whether or not this tax credit will be extended,” he said.
Farm Bureau also is keeping a close eye on Senate Bill 510, the Food Safety Modernization Act, which would give the Food and Drug Administration broad power over farming practices and food production and potentially hurt small, local food producers.
“You have two possible scenarios with Congress. The first is that Congress has to come back and complete all the appropriations spending before they can tackle anything else, which means they might not have time to tackle other bills,” Sharp said. “The second is that if there’s a change in Congress for party control that there could be an attempt by the House and Senate to rush through a series of bills that they haven’t been able to get done yet. It’s all a guessing game right now.”