Taxes, safety nets among many topics on first day of OFBF County Presidents’ Trip to D.C.

Time for insight and learning helped to kick off the 71st annual Ohio Farm Bureau County Presidents’ Trip to Washington D.C. on Monday.

Each year leaders from Ohio’s county Farm Bureaus to come together and carry out the mission of their grassroots organization by voicing the thoughts and concerns of agriculture to the various areas of D.C. that play a role in the industry, especially that of elected officials.

The group converged at the American Farm Bureau Federation headquarters to hear from a number of experts in agricultural matters to prepare for meetings with representatives later in the trip. Tax policy specialist Pat Wolff was on hand, touching on various parts of tax reform. A unique subject, she noted, as the Republican led House, Senate, and White House all want tax reform — something that hasn’t been on the agenda for quite some time.

“This is real and this hasn’t happened since 1986,” Wolff said. “The bill is not written yet. It may be written in pencil somewhere, but definitely not pen.”

Wolff highlighted positive and negative areas of the tax reform “blueprint” so far.

“One thing that’s in the proposal that’s not so friendly to farmers is the loss of deduction of business interest. So we’re asking farmers to tell their members of Congress why it matters whether or not they can deduct interest,” she said.

Listen to Pat Wolff speak to Ohio Ag Net on AFBF’s tax reform stance.

Speaking on regulatory reform was Paul Schlegel, director of environment and energy policy with Farm Bureau. He focused on attempting to keep regulations similar to Waters of the United States (WOTUS) from happening again by trying to have a more open and transparent process of rulemaking.

“The system is out of whack and that’s what we’re trying to fix,” Schlegel said.

WOTUS looked to give EPA power to regulate bodies of water not traditionally in their scope. Many in agriculture felt it to be government overreach, being railroaded through Congress to the ire of many farm groups.

Shlegel especially noted that Ohio looks to play a big role in the effort as Sen. Rob Portman wants to introduce a reform bill, an area of the highest priority for the Farm Bureau. Schlegel also helped clarify to members exactly what the recent Executive Order by President Trump on WOTUS actual did as he has no power to repeal the current law. He pointed out how the EO directs EPA to certain actions to start the repeal process.

“He can’t legally yank it. You can’t just do that,” Schlegel said.

Director of market intelligence John Newton looked to the 2018 Farm Bill and the changes to safety net programs Farm Bureau is advocating for — specifically in dairy after the failed Dairy Margin Protection Program (MPP) of the 2014 Farm Bill.

“Participation in MPP, because people really aren’t happy with it, has declined,” he said.

AFBF has suggested the inclusion of an MPP alternative in the next farm bill called Dairy-Revenue Protection. The new safety net program, which is still in its infancy, would boil down to four decisions that would need to be made by the dairy farmer:
1. Milk price
2. Amount of milk to cover
3. Coverage level (60-100%)
4. Which quarters to cover

If enacted, an indemnity would be paid to the dairy farmer if actual revenue falls below the guarantee. The program looks to be submitted to USDA in April for consideration.

Hear Newton speak on the changes that AFBF hopes to see down the road for safety net programs.

Also on the day, Matt Roberts of the Kernmantle Group, spoke on the state of the ag economy. Keith Stimpert, Ohio Farm Bureau VP gave a state organizational update.

Tuesday and Wednesday will be busy for trip attendees with legislator meetings and other D.C.-exclusive activities, all with the hope of spreading agricultural information.

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