WASHINGTON, Nov. 5, 2017 - House Republicans will seek to push their tax reform plan through committee this week, knowing it likely faces significant changes in the Senate to meet its budget rules. 

The House Ways and Means Committee begins work on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on Monday and could take until Thursday to finish debating amendments. 

The bill has significant implications for farmers and ranchers, because it would expand the current expensing and depreciation allowances while eventually repealing the estate tax

Asked on Fox News Sunday about why the GOP wants to repeal the estate tax when it impacts only a few thousand people, House Speaker Paul Ryan said it was important as a “fairness” argument.

“People work hard to build up their business, their farm, their ranch, all their working lives. They pay taxes on that money all of their lives. And then when you die, you get it taxed away from you and you can't pass it on to the next generation,” Ryan pointed out. “We just think it's unfair. Death should be not a taxable event, and we should not be stopping people from being able to pass their life's work on to their kids.”

However, experts say the bill also could raise taxes on some farms because of new rules for pass-through businesses and requirements for paying self-employment taxes. The bill also would end a tax deduction that farmer cooperatives often pass on their members. The National Council of Farmer Cooperatives estimates the deductions were worth $2 billion last year. 

Republicans express confidence about getting the bill out of the House, although they were still eyeing possible changes to the bill before it reaches the House floor. The pass-through rules are one target for changes. 

“At the end of the day our members know that they have to succeed in this endeavor, and they are going to succeed,” Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., told reporters.

Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., said the bill "would make the tax code much more simple and fair, delivering family-friendly credits, lower tax rates, immediate deductibility, small business incentives, and, ultimately, a full and permanent repeal of the ‘death tax’.”

Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, is expected to bring out the Senate’s version of the tax bill later this week. 

The House bill likely can’t make it through the Senate the way it is because of Senate budget rules that prevent measures being considered under the budget reconciliation process from increasing the federal deficit after 10 years. The reconciliation process is crucial to moving a tax bill through the Senate without Democratic support. 

Meanwhile this week, President Trump is on a 13-day trip to Asia. He is in Japan on Sunday and Monday, before moving on to South Korea,  China, Vietnam, and the Philippines. Trade will be a major focus of the trip. 

The visit to China, where he’ll be accompanied by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S. business executives, “will send a clear message that … China must provide fair and reciprocal treatment to U.S. firms and cease predatory trade and investment practices,” a senior administration official said. 

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is in California Sunday and Monday to meet with local farmers and producers. He scheduled a town hall meeting with local producers hosted by the California Farm Bureau Federation. On Monday, The Western Growers Association hosts a meeting with farmers at Grimmway Farm in Arvin.

Also in Congress this week, the Senate Agriculture Committee will hold a confirmation hearing Thursday for Stephen Vaden to be USDA’s general counsel, and Iowa farmer Glen Smith to be a member of board of the Farm Credit Administration.

There has been no sign of progress on the impasse over the nomination of Bill Northey to be USDA’s undersecretary for farm and foreign agricultural services. Sens. Tom Cruz, R-Texas, and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., are holding up Northey’s nomination as leverage to get a meeting with the Trump administration on biofuel issues. 

Also on Thursday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will take the first step to move legislation intended to protect livestock operations from activists' lawsuits over manure runoff. A subcommittee will hold a hearing on a discussion draft that is a stripped-down version of the Farm Regulatory Certainty Act introduced by Rep. Don Newhouse, R-Wash. 

The discussion draft omits a series of findings meant to clarify that the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act wasn’t intended to govern how farms handle manure and fertilizer. 

In 2015, a federal judge ruled in a lawsuit against dairy farms in Washington state that nitrates found in groundwater constituted a “solid waste” under the Resources Conservation and Recovery Act and that high water nitrate levels amounted to “open dumping”.

Here’s a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere:

Monday, Nov. 6

Noon - House Ways and Means Committee begins markup of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, 1100 Longworth.

4 p.m. - USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report.

Tuesday, Nov. 7

10 a.m. - Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee hearing on advancing the “internet of things” in rural America, 253 Russell.

Wednesday, Nov. 8

NAFB national convention, through Friday, Kansas City.

10 a.m. - Senate Environment and Public Works Committee confirmation hearing for Kathleen Hartnett White to be a member of the Council on Environmental Quality and Andrew Wheeler to be deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, 406 Dirksen.

10 a.m. - Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee confirmation hearing for Kirstjen Nielsen to be secretary of homeland security, 342 Dirksen.

Thursday, Nov. 9

8:30 a.m. - USDA releases Weekly Export Sales report.

9:30 a.m. - Senate Agriculture Committee confirmation hearing for Glen Smith to be a member of the board of the Farm Credit Administration and Stephen Vaden to be general counsel for USDA, 328-A Russell.

10:15 a.m. - House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on the Farm Regulatory Certainty Act, 2322 Rayburn.

10:30 a.m. - Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs meeting to vote on the Nielsen nomination, 342 Dirksen.

Noon - USDA releases monthly Crop Production report and World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates

Friday, Nov. 10

Federal holiday.


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