ASA pushes legislative priorities in unfinished business for Congress

The 111th Congress adjourned on September 30, for the pre-election recess. It will return to Washington on November 15, to begin a “lame duck” session, break for Thanksgiving, and is expected to return after Thanksgiving for another three weeks to complete “unfinished business.”

The American Soybean Association (ASA) urges voters to contact Members of Congress on four key items of “unfinished business” that are of critical importance to U.S. soybean farmers and the soy industry. We also urge you to talk to candidates who are seeking Senate or House offices about these issues. While only current Members of Congress will vote in any lame duck session, it is important to educate candidates about soybean farmer policy priorities including:

·         Extension of the biodiesel tax credit;

·         Estate tax legislation;

·         Passage of the South Korea Free Trade Agreement (and possibly the Colombia and Panama FTAs) to retain and expand U.S. exports to these countries; and,

·         Removal of barriers hindering trade with Cuba.

Key talking points on ASA’s key priorities include:

1.  Biodiesel Tax Credit in the Tax Extenders Bill

Retroactive extension of the biodiesel tax credit for 2010 and renewal of the incentive for 2011 and beyond has been ASA’s top legislative priority this year. The extension has been included in a tax extenders package that has failed to pass the Senate several times.

·         Extension and renewal of the biodiesel tax credit are critical to the economic viability of the industry. Expiration of the biodiesel tax incentive on December 31, 2009, has resulted in lost production and jobs. This situation is likely to worsen if the credit is not reinstated.

·         The biodiesel tax credit is needed to make biodiesel competitive with the entrenched petroleum diesel industry.

·         Biodiesel is a key market for U.S. soybean oil, and has been a key factor in supporting domestic soybean prices in recent years.

·         Biodiesel is the only advanced biofuel commercially produced in the U.S. It reduces our dependence on petroleum, creates jobs, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

·         It is imperative that the biodiesel tax extension be included in legislation that can achieve the 60 votes necessary to pass the Senate.

2.  Estate Tax Legislation

Estate tax legislation enacted in 2001 increased the exclusion amount from $675,000 to $3.5 million and reduced the tax rate on estates exceeding the exclusion from 55% to 45% in 2009. The bill repealed the tax entirely for 2010, but it will be reinstated in 2011 with an exclusion amount of $1.0 million and a tax rate of 55%.

·         The House passed its estate tax bill last December with a $3.5 million exclusion and a 45% tax rate. Senators Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) have introduced legislation that has a $3.5 million exclusion and a 35% tax rate.

·         ASA strongly supports including the Lincoln-Kyl provision in a lame duck tax bill.

3.  Free Trade Agreements

Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama were completed prior to 2009, but the Administration has not sent them to Congress for approval. The South Korea FTA may be considered during the lame duck session, and possibly others.

·         The Colombia FTA will benefit soybean farmers by immediately eliminating tariffs ranging from 5–20 percent on soybeans, soybean meal and soybean flour, and phase-out the tariffs on soybean oil. U.S. soybean, wheat, corn, and hog farmers have lost market share and sales in Colombia in recent years due to trade agreements that Colombia has signed with Brazil and other countries.

·         The South Korea FTA would provide landmark opportunities for U.S. soy, meat, and poultry exports. The agreement offers immediate duty-free access to U.S. soybeans for crushing and to U.S. soybean meal. And for the first time, producers of U.S. food-grade soybeans would have access to the South Korean market outside an import monopoly. Tariffs on refined soybean oil would be eliminated over 5 years, and tariffs on crude soybean oil would be eliminated over 10 years.

·         The Panama FTA will permanently lock-in duty-free treatment of U.S. exports of soybeans, soybean meal, and crude soybean oil.

·         ASA strongly supports approval of all three FTAs and renewal of Presidential Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) which would allow the Administration to negotiate new FTAs with countries that are important markets for U.S. soy and livestock product exports.

4.  Cuba Trade Bill

The Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act (H.R. 4645) sponsored by Chairman Collin Peterson and 81 others was approved by the House Agriculture Committee in late June. It would normalize financial transactions with Cuba, allowing U.S. soy and livestock product exports to compete with exports from other suppliers. It would also repeal restrictions on U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba. The House Foreign Affairs Committee decided to not consider the bill prior to recess because there was uncertainty as to whether supporters were going to attend the mark-up on the last day that Congress was in session.

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