The process of producing better food, protecting the environment and improving animal health is advancing at a seemingly breakneck pace. These advancements are driven in part by new scientific discoveries, genetic research, data science, enhanced computational power and the availability of new systems for precision breeding like CRISPR—an acronym for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats.
When President Donald Trump signed the new tax reform package into law on Dec. 22, the first call for many farmers and ranchers was to their accountants with a multitude of questions. The answers, for many, depend on their farm structure, size, income outlook and business goals. Agri-Pulse asked producers from around the country how they viewed the new law, officially known as "The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act."
If you thought 2017 was a big year for news and controversies streaming out of Washington, hang on to your hat for another wild ride in 2018. In the near term, look for continued fights over how to fund the federal government, along with ongoing battles over immigration, health care and national security. The current continuing resolution runs through Jan. 19. Among the issues yet to be resolved is how to deal with those citizens who were hit hard by hurricanes and wildfires.
By now, you've probably seen several media headlines about the huge package of tax changes that the GOP-controlled Congress finally passed this week. Most of the media "buzz" is either highly favorable or extremely critical, and usually, that's a reflection of the political party sources quoted in each piece. For example, Democrat Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota slammed the legislation.
President Donald Trump plans to address farm and ranch families from across the nation at the American Farm Bureau Federation's 99th Annual Convention, Jan. 5-10 in Nashville, Tenn. "The American Farm Bureau Federation is honored to host our nation's president," said AFBF President Zippy Duvall, a beef and poultry farmer from Georgia. "President Trump has said all along that he would make sure agriculture has a seat at the table when it comes to the top issues facing America's farmers and ranchers. Now, it is our privilege to reserve a spot for him at our podium."
The current farm bill does not expire until the fall of 2018, but several members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees — wary of the almost three years it took to approve the last bill — are getting a jump start on the process. There's also a sense that farmers and ranchers need more certainty about government programs during a time when the farm economy is still struggling to regain its footing.
Last week, GOP lawmakers moved a package aimed at updating and reforming the U.S. tax code through the U.S. House of Representatives, 227 — 205, with no Democratic support. House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, says farmers and ranchers have a lot to gain if tax reform makes its way to President Trump's desk for signature, including eventual repeal of the estate tax, an expanded expensing allowance and lower tax rates. Tax reform "will help the economy, it will help our producers, and I think this is a great step in the right direction," he said.
Later this month, negotiators from the U.S., Mexico and Canada head to Mexico City to discuss the North American Free Trade Agreement. To say that major U.S. farm and ranch groups are nervous about the potential outcome during this fourth round — starting Nov. 17 — would be an understatement. At a time when many farm gate prices are already under pressure and international exports account for an average of 20 percent of farm revenues, many fear that losing this crucial trade agreement will deliver a death blow to an already fragile farm economy.
One of our favorite things to do this time of year is to drive across the country to visit farms and families across the nation's midsection. In a little over a week, my husband and I crossed over parts of Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois watching tractors and combines roll. It's usually a mixed bag of field conditions depending on how the weather treated farmers in each state. We saw fields that were too soggy to harvest with at least one tractor stuck in a field, drought-stressed corn and some soybean fields overtaken by weeds.
Over the last few decades, U.S. farmers have made great strides in conserving soil and enhancing water quality, but there's a growing concern that more needs to be done. But how can you accomplish more when the amount of federal and state dollars to assist in this effort may be at a standstill or likely to decline?