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“I think we threw a little sand in the gears with this proposal, not to say they won’t continue to pursue it.”

John Hart, Associate Editor

August 9, 2021

5 Min Read
Brad Haire

The Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Committee says efforts to change the estate tax appear to have slowed down thanks in part to a study that shows changing the rules on inherited property could raise taxes an average of $1.4 million on the typical farm.

“I think we threw a little sand in the gears with this proposal, not to say they won’t continue to pursue it,” said Rep. Glen “GT” Thompson, a Republican who represents Pennsylvania’s 15th Congressional District, and has served as Ranking Member of the House Agriculture since the new Congress was sworn in in January.

Thompson, speaking at the Southeastern Cotton Ginners mid-year board meeting at the Ritz-Carlton in Amelia Island, Fla. Jul 23, cited a study that he and Sen. John Boozman, a Republican from Arkansas, Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, requested from the Agricultural and Food Policy Research Center (AFPC) at Texas A&M University. The AFPC study analyzed two bills introduced in the Senate — the Sensible Taxation and Equity Promotion (STEP) Act, which proposes to eliminate stepped-up basis upon death of the owner and the For the 99.5 Percent Act, which would decrease the estate tax exemption.

The STEP Act’s proposed changes to a stepped-up basis mirror proposals discussed by the Biden administration. If it were to be implemented, 92 of AFPC’s 94 representative farms would be impacted with an average additional tax liability of more than $720,000 per farm. Together, the two bills would raise taxes an average of $1.4 million on 98 percent of AFPC’s representative farms.

Thompson said the study is important because it looked at farms of different sizes in different regions that grow different commodities. He noted the only farms that wouldn’t see a tax increase from the two bills are operations where the famer doesn’t own any of the land, therefore there wasn’t an asset that could be taxed.

Thompson said the good news is that whopping $1.4 million figure has slowed down the Biden administration’s discussions on raising the estate or death tax. “Although that analysis was just on farms, I think the analysis applies to processors and small businesses across the country. If they pursue it, it is not good news for the American economy going forward,” Thompson said.

Pass Workforce Act

In the meantime, Thompson said he hopes the Senate will take up and pass the Farm Workforce Modernization Act that passed the House under a bipartisan vote. Thompson said he voted for the bill and hopes the Senate will refine it. As of now, the Senate has taken no action on the bill. He did note that the bill is imperfect and must be improved before becoming law.

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act would allow a limited number of H-2A visas for year-round jobs — up to 20,000 per year in the first three years — with adjustments to the cap through 10 years, followed by an assessment each year thereafter of whether there should be a cap and what it should be, based on specified factors.

Employers seeking to access the H-2A program for year-round employment, however, would be required to provide additional protections, including family housing and an annual paid trip home

Thompson said he hopes “common sense will prevail and they will see the greatest threat to national security in this country is food and fiber insecurity, rural America insecurity, that is largely driven by workforce issues.”

He noted that workforce issues in agriculture and elsewhere have predated the pandemic.

“The fastest way to food insecurity, economic insecurity, is for agriculture not to have a reliable workforce. Then you throw the virus in there and compound that with $1,400 checks per family member, extended unemployment, and child tax credits, you incentivize people not to work. America’s strength is its workforce; it sets America apart,” Thompson said.

Thompson said he supported the stimulus in 2020 because it was needed during the height of the pandemic, but he did not support the stimulus package in January 2021. He said now it’s time for people to go back to work.

Finally, Thompson expressed concern for the Biden administration’s intention to undo the Trump administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule. He and other Republican members on the House Agriculture Committee are concerned the Biden administration has signaled it wants to revise the definition of the Waters of the United States”(WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act and potentially return to Obama-era regulations that broadened what is considered a navigable stream to everything from farm ponds to ditches.

Thompson said a ruling by the U.S. District Court in South Carolina July 14 that the Trump administration rule must remain in place until the new Biden administration rule is implemented “was a blessing.” He said the Obama Waters of the U.S. rule “was the largest private property taking in the history of our country.”


U.S. Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson, Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Committee, center, checks out the various cotton grades at the USDA-AMS exhibit during the mid-year board meeting of the Southeastern Cotton Ginners Association at the Ritz--Carlton in Amelia Island, Fla.  July 23. Joining Thompson are Steve Sterling, left, president of the association and general manager of Cotton Producers Co-op of Tuscumbia, Ala.; and Kent Fountain, chairman of the National Cotton Council and president/CEO of Southeastern Gin and Peanut in Surrency, Ga. Credit: John Hart

About the Author(s)

John Hart

Associate Editor, Southeast Farm Press

John Hart is associate editor of Southeast Farm Press, responsible for coverage in the Carolinas and Virginia. He is based in Raleigh, N.C.

Prior to joining Southeast Farm Press, John was director of news services for the American Farm Bureau Federation in Washington, D.C. He also has experience as an energy journalist. For nine years, John was the owner, editor and publisher of The Rice World, a monthly publication serving the U.S. rice industry.  John also worked in public relations for the USA Rice Council in Houston, Texas and the Cotton Board in Memphis, Tenn. He also has experience as a farm and general assignments reporter for the Monroe, La. News-Star.

John is a native of Lake Charles, La. and is a  graduate of the LSU School of Journalism in Baton Rouge.  At LSU, he served on the staff of The Daily Reveille.

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