A Farm Bill is essential to provide stability for family farms across the country. (Photo by Carrie Muehling/WJBC)
By Carrie Muehling
KANSAS CITY – Members of the agriculture community are speculating about what will happen with the Farm Bill now that the elections are over.
One bill has passed out of the Senate and another out of House Ag Committee, where it stalled before reaching the House floor. There has been lots of talk about whether action will come during the lame duck session.
“I personally feel that there is going to be so much pressure to deal with the tax and budget issues that given the fact that you’ve already got a farm bill that has progressed pretty far that has significant savings involved with it – budget cuts – that that’s going to be hard to pass up for a group up folks who are looking to deal with budget issues, so there might be an opportunity to see it pass yet this fall,” said Jon Scholl, president of American Farmland Trust.
Scholl said while the House and Senate did not change control and the administration is still the same after the election, there seems to be an evaporation of the players “in the middle.” That’s why he is advocating for completion of the Farm Bill as soon as possible.
“In some ways you’re seeing an increased polarization of Congress, and that’s not necessarily an environment that I’m ready to go back and to restart a Farm Bill debate in. Let’s do it now, let’s get it done and move on,” said Scholl.
Besides the Farm Bill, Scholl is also watching what is happening with the estate tax. If Congress does not act by the end of the year, the exemption level would go from $5 million to $1 million and the tax rate would go from 35 percent to 55 percent.
“That could be devastating for a lot of family farms, so we have a real strong interest to make sure we address those issues, that we keep that land in agriculture and not make people have to sell it to pay an estate tax,” Scholl said.
He believes the estate tax issue will come up for debate because it is a critical component of the tax policy. As an agricultural community, he urged people to continue to talk to legislators about the importance of this issue to family farms. Scholl said he remains optimistic that Congress will deal with these issues and not put them off until next year.
“I like to think that these problems are of a magnitude and that the public has sent a clear enough message that we expect results in Washington,” said Scholl.
Scholl participated in the Trade Talk event during the National Association of Farm Broadcasting convention in Kansas City earlier this month.
Carrie Muehling can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.