Congress approves sweeping tax and unemployment package

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, Dec. 17 -At midnight Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved an $858 billion package that extends many current tax provisions, provides a one-year payroll tax cut for most Americans, modifies estate tax rates, continues renewable energy tax credits, and provides unemployment benefits through next year.  The final vote was 277 to 148.


Several Democrats argued that the estate tax provisions, negotiated by President Barack Obama and Senate Republicans, were too generous for the wealthiest Americans, but their amendment to reform the measure failed, 233 to 194.


In the final vote 139 Democrats and 138 Republicans supported the measure, while 112 Democrats and 36 Republicans opposed. For a closer look at how your member voted:

 Together we can feed the Bees


The Senate approved the package on Wednesday by 81 to 19.


“It was unfortunate to hear some Congressional leaders portray the reformation of the estate tax to a 35 percent rate with a $5 million exemption as a benefit for the wealthy elite,” said National Cattlemen's Beef Association President Steve Foglesong. “On Jan. 1, 2011, if the estate tax was allowed to revert back to the pre-2001 level of 55 percent on property valued at $1 million, many farmers and ranchers would have been forced to sell, further depopulating rural America.”


Once the President signs the bill into law, it will reduce the top rate of the estate tax, commonly known as the death tax, to 35 percent; increase the exemption level to $5 million; index exemptions to inflation; and include a stepped-up basis.


The legislation retroactively extends the biodiesel tax incentive through 2011.  The bill will now be sent to the President for signature.


“Reinstatement of the biodiesel tax credit is welcome news for the U.S. biodiesel industry and good news for the nation as a whole,” said Manning Feraci, NBB Vice President of Federal Affairs.  “This will undoubtedly help kick-start the domestic biodiesel industry, lessen our dependence on foreign oil, and create thousands of new jobs across the country.”

Ethanol industry supporters also cheered passage of the bill for extending five key tax provisions, including:


Blender's Credit for Ethanol (VEETC). The bill extends the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit through 2011 at the current rate of 45 cents per gallon.


Tariff on Imported Ethanol. The bill also extends through 2011 the existing 54 cent, secondary tariff on imported ethanol and the related tariff on ethyl tertiary-butyl ether.

Small Producer Tax Credit. The bill also extends through 2011 the 10 cent per gallon producer tax credit for small ethanol producers producing no more 60 million gallon of ethanol a year. The tax credit is applicable to just the first 15 million gallons of production for eligible producers.


Excise tax credits for alternative fuel and alternative fuel mixtures. The measure extends through 2011 the $0.50 per gallon alternative fuel credit and the alternative fuel mixture tax credits, excluding black liquor (liquid fuel derived from a pulp or paper manufacturing process) from credit eligibility.


Alternative fuel vehicle refueling property. The measure extends the 30 percent investment tax credit for alternative vehicle refueling property for one year, through 2011.


 “Extending these important incentives creates the necessary space for meaningful discussion of energy tax policy reform to occur,”said Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen in a statement: “American ethanol producers are committed to responsible reform of ethanol tax policy, but urge Congress to take this opportunity to reform all energy tax policy. Oil producers and other fossil fuel industries still receive hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer support despite decades of subsidies and high profits. Now is the time to put all chips on the table and have an honest debate about the merits of all energy incentives. In such a discussion, ethanol's benefits would be clear.”


CEO Tom Buis issued the following statement after the House passed the tax package:


“This vote today, which includes an extension of ethanol tax policy, will provide certainty in the market and give us a chance to work with Congress and the Administration to enact longer term tax policy reforms that will level the playing field in the fuels market. The infrastructure build out proposed in our Fueling Freedom proposal will help open the market to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, improve our environment, create U.S. jobs that can't be outsourced and strengthen our national security.”

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