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Ag policy outlook checkup

Ag policy outlook checkup
A look at how Congress has tackled trade, EPA, reauthorizations and held off on tax and immigration reform.

Last November I wrote an article previewing what was on the policy horizon for 2015 and highlighted trade, waters of the U.S., taxes, immigration and reauthorizations as top of mind ag policy issues for the year.

Here’s a snapshot look at where we’re at halfway through the year and what’s projected going forward.

TRADE: Last November when Republicans regained control in the Senate and President Obama wanting to embrace trade it seemed to be the one area of bipartisanship that could prevail in D.C. And that was finally realized in recent weeks with the passage of Trade Promotion Authority despite attempts from Democrats and Republicans to derail negotiating authority for the President.

Congress has been busy tackling trade and EPA overregulation in first months of 2015.

With TPA passed, we could see the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement come into its final stages yet this year. Once negotiations are done, Congress and the public gets 60 days to review the bill before they vote up or down on the package.

WOTUS: Regulatory overreach may be the No. 1 complaint about the federal government from the Republicans and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) waters of the U.S. proposal could be the most attainable goal within their attempt to chip away at it.

The EPA finalized its waters of the U.S. rule this spring and there is little to tame agricultural groups concerns. Legislative efforts to stop EPA from implementing the rule are gaining speed and the House already passed its version. Appropriation bills thwarting funding and court cases will also continue to draw this fight out. For more on WOTUS, read this blog post.

REAUTHORIZATIONS: The House and Senate Agriculture Committees have been busy at work to wrap up reauthorization bills ahead of Sept. 30 expirations. The full House has approved bills to reauthorize the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Grains Standard Act and Livestock Mandatory Reporting. The Senate Agriculture Committee has begun work and hearings on some of those as well. It is expected that they’ll be able to get those to the president’s desk ahead of this fall’s expiration. Read more here and here.

TAXES: As projected, comprehensive tax reform in 2015 didn’t seem likely and even more so heading into the 2016 presidential election year. Very little work has been continued from 2014 on expiring tax provisions that saw temporary fixes at the end of the year. Farmers still seek more permanent policy on Section 179 business expenses and bonus depreciation.

On June 24, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., introduced legislation that amends the U.S. tax code to permanently allow businesses to deduct 50% of qualified new equipment and property purchases immediately. Bonus depreciation was first enacted in 2002 and has been extended and allowed to expire multiple times.

IMMIGRATION: It would take significant political willpower for legislators to come forward with comprehensive immigration reform. The outlook continues to remain bleak as the House tries to offer a more enforcement-focused approach.

Kristi Boswell, director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation, encourages all ag professionals to call their legislators and ask for immigration reform. “Allowing legislators to ignore it because of political pressure is not acceptable,” she said. “We need to make immigration laws work the way they were intended. Doing nothing—or just enforcement—is not an option for agriculture any longer.”

A study done by AFBF showed only enforcing the borders— without immigration reform—will cost $30 billion to $60 billion in agricultural production and increase food prices by 5 to 6 %.

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