Republicans look to advance competing tax reform plans in the House and Senate this week, and farm groups look to build on their early success in shaping the legislation.
The House will take up a bill late this week that the Ways and Means Committee approved on a party line, 24-16 vote Thursday after making a series of last-minute changes that included provisions sought by farmers and small business interests.
The Senate Finance Committee released its version of the bill Thursday and starts debate on the legislation Monday.
Both bills would slash the corporate tax and reduce the average tax burden on individuals.
“From an overall U.S. competitiveness standpoint, it (tax reform) has got ramifications for our industry and the United States as well,” said Nick Giordano, vice president and counsel for global government affairs at the National Pork Producers Council. “We’re delighted to see it moving.”
But he told Agri-Pulse that pork industry leaders were working with analysts to figure out how the bills would affect producers.
Rob Larew, senior vice president of public policy and communications for the National Farmers Union, cautioned that the bills are complicated and will affect farms differently depending on how they are structured.
Tax reform “was sold as simplifying the process … but we’re just not seeing that,” he said.
There are important differences in the bills with respect to agriculture. Both, for example, would immediately double the estate tax exemption, now $5.5 million per individual, but the House bill would also repeal the tax in 2024.
But the biggest challenge for farmers is likely to be analyzing the different approaches the bills take to taxing income from pass-through businesses: partnerships, sole proprietorships and S corporations.
The House bill would set a top rate of 25 percent on pass-through income and phase in a new bottom rate of 9 percent. The Senate bill would instead allow business owners a new 17.4 percent deduction on 50 percent of wage income. Farmers who have structured their operations to reduce self-employment tax might see limited benefit from that deduction.
The package of changes to the House bill that the Ways and Means Committee approved on Thursday stripped a provision from the bill that experts say could have sharply increased many farmers’ self-employment tax liability.
Meanwhile on Tuesday, concerns about Big Data and agriculture will get an airing both on and off Capitol Hill.
A Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee chaired by Jerry Moran, R-Kan., will hold a hearing on agricultural data. The witnesses will include Oklahoma State University professor Shannon Ferrell, who testified before the House Agriculture Committee in 2015 that Congress should pass legislation to shield farmers’ data from the federal government.
Also testifying is the co-founder of a Kansas startup, Farmobile, that makes it easier for farmers to collect field data and then to sell it.
Meanwhile on Tuesday, advocacy groups concerned about the Bayer-Monsanto merger are releasing a pair of reports that will detail the harm they believe the merger will do to consumers, farmers and the use of agricultural data. One report was developed by Consumer Federation of America, the other by the Open Markets Institute and Friends of the Earth.
Also this week, the House will take up a bipartisan bill, the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act, designed to make fundamental improvements in government analysis and decision making.
The bill, which incorporates recommendations of a bipartisan commission, would require agencies to submit evidence-building plans and to appoint chief evaluation officers to coordinate evidence-building activities.
“As lawmakers, we have to change our approach not only to how we make policy, but how we gauge its results,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, who spearheaded the reform effort with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.
Here’s a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere:
Monday, Nov. 13
8:45 a.m. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue participates in ag listening session at King Brothers Dairy in Schuylerville, New York, followed by a gaggle. At 11:15 a.m. Perdue is scheduled to tour West Wing Ag. in nearby Schaghticoke.
2 p.m. - Agricultural Data Coalition holds webinar on ag data ownership.
3 p.m. - Senate Finance Committee begins markup of its tax reform bill, 216 Hart.
4 p.m. - USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report.
Tuesday, Nov. 14
FDA holds public meeting on biotechnology education initiative, San Francisco.
9 a.m. - Groups concerned about the Bayer-Monsanto merger and concentration in agriculture hold a forum, “Concentration in the Agriculture Business and the Monsanto-Bayer Merger,” National Press Club.
10 a.m. - House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee hearing on implementation of Trump administration's regulatory reform initiative at USDA and other departments, 2154 Rayburn.
2 p.m. - House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing, “Brexit: A Negotiation Update,” 2172 Rayburn.
2:30 p.m. - Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee hearing, “Technology in Agriculture: Data-Driven Farming,” 253 Russell.
4 p.m. - Cato Institute webinar, “The Science of Nutrition and Public Choice.”
6:30 p.m. - House Rules Committee meeting to consider rule for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, H-313.
Wednesday, Nov. 15
10 a.m. - House Education and the Workforce hearing on Labor Department policies with Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, 2175 Rayburn.
1 p.m. - USDA’s Biotechnology Regulatory Services stakeholder meeting, Riverdale, Md. Webcast available.
Thursday, Nov. 16
8:30 a.m. - USDA releases Weekly Export Sales report.
8:30 a.m. - Heritage Foundation hosts 2017 Antipoverty Forum, 214 Massachusetts Ave. NE.
Friday, Nov. 17
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