Farm Progress

Kansas Farm Bureau establishes state, national policy priorities

State priorities for KFB include taxes, education and paying for the water plan.

Walt Davis 1, Editor

December 18, 2017

3 Min Read
TRADE PUSH: Kansas Farm Bureau joins other farm organizations around the country in a push for international trade agreements, such as modernizing NAFTA.ilfede/iStock/Thinkstock

All across the country, farmers and farm organization are gearing up for a major push for international trade.

The Kansas Farm Bureau is no exception, and that was reflected in the policy decisions made at its annual conference in December.

KFB is pushing for a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, urging that it be modernized rather than having the U.S. withdraw from the agreement.

“There’s been a lot of rhetoric lately, and we are concerned over the trade deal’s future,” says Rich Felts, KFB president. “Since its implementation in 1994, we have seen agricultural exports from the U.S. to Canada and Mexico increase from $8.9 billion in 1993 to $38.1 billion in 2016. In Kansas, we’ll export well in excess of $4.5 billion in agricultural commodities annually, with 36 percent of that going to our NAFTA neighbors. We believe any renegotiation must protect the gains achieved in agricultural trade and work to remove remaining barriers to trade with Canada and Mexico. We’re in contact with our delegation, and they understand the importance of trade to farmers and ranchers.”

Felts added praise for the Kansas Congressional delegation, which has been actively working to encourage a decision to remain part of NAFTA.

“Our Kansas delegation understands how important trade is for farmers and ranchers and Main Streets all across Kansas. They are fighting the good fight for us in D.C.,” Felts said.

The trade policy statement also supports improved trade in the TPP countries, defending KORUS (the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement) and expanding market access to countries in the EU, China and Japan.

Also on the national front, the KFB policy statement supports a federal tax code that works for all farmers and ranchers. KFB lists six priorities for any tax reform legislation:

1. reduced business tax rates

2. ability to deduct interest expenses

3. immediate expensing of business investments

4. continuation of cash accounting

5. continuation of Section 1031 like-kind exchanges

6. estate tax relief.

KFB also adopted policy stances at the state level.

“We’re gearing up for the 2018 legislative session,” Felts says. “As always, there are a number of things on our radar. The work our legislators did on the state’s tax system this year is starting to pay off. State revenue is up. In 2018 we’ll be closely watching what happens on the school funding front.”

The issues KFB will be following next year include taxes, education and paying for the state water.

KFB will continue to monitor and defend sales tax exemptions on farm machinery and equipment. Farm operations are no different than any other manufacturing business in the fact they need specialized equipment in order to operate the business.

As it has for the past few legislative sessions, KFB will continue to defend the use of the value appraisal system for agricultural lands in the state. The organization has increased efforts in recent months to its own members, but also state legislations, county commissioners and local school boards, to help them understand that the eight-year rolling average system helps ensure that local agricultural property taxes reflect the productivity levels of those lands.

This year, KFB and other interested organizations were successful in defeating numerous attempts to increase fees for water users, including irrigators, during the legislative session.

A blue-ribbon panel appointed by Gov. Sam Brownback recommended the legislature authorize the statutorily required State General Fund transfer of $6 million annually.

For the current fiscal year, the fund will receive about $13.1 million, which includes only about $1.2 million of the $6 million that is supposed to come from the state general fund.

“There’s no doubt irrigators will continue to be targeted, and we will remind legislators that irrigated land already provides tax funds through higher property taxes,” the policy position reads. “According to the Kansas Department of Agriculture, irrigated farmland generates approximately $6.7 million in additional property taxes compared with non-irrigated farmland.”

In October, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled the state’s new school finance system is unconstitutional, saying the state failed to meet the Kansas Constitution’s requirements to adequately fund education. The question the state will have to answer is where the money will come from.

Farm Bureau believes it should be funded through a general revenue source such as the state general fund.

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