fb - voice of agriculture
July 2001

AFBF Policies Lead to Lower Taxes, Greater Commodity Use

Bob Stallman
American Farm Bureau
By Bob Stallman
President, American Farm Bureau

Farm Bureau's reason for being is to provide our members economic and social benefits and enhancements. Your organization has made significant gains in both areas recently, the result of decades of work in some cases. Farm Bureau is recognized as the driving force in killing the death tax. The recent 2001 tax reform measure signed into law by President Bush offers financial relief for all tax payers. Critics contend the reforms vastly favor the wealthy, which makes sense when you recognize that higher incomes pay higher taxes, but that is not the issue of the moment.

The new law covers quite a bit of ground, reportedly making 441 changes and adding 14 sections to the Internal Revenue Code. It decreases the number of tax brackets and kills the death tax. The new law lessens the so-called "marriage penalty" faced by families where both spouses earn a paycheck (a move that will benefit almost two-thirds of all farm families, according to USDA), offers rebate checks to taxpayers, and tweaks and fiddles with other areas of the Tax Code that are of supreme interest to those affected, eye-glazing to others.

Years ago, when Farm Bureau first proposed ending estate taxes because they are unfair and threaten the existence of family businesses, many non-farmers scoffed. As the years went by, political observers told us repeatedly that eliminating estate taxes would not pass Washington's "laugh test." Well, taxpaying citizens have the last laugh, for now. The death tax phases out entirely in 2010. But, due to legislative technicalities, the law eliminating estate taxes and the other reforms will lapse – "sunset" – the following year.

Speak Up Now to Kill Death Taxes Dead

Our work now is to close the coffin on the death tax and bury it deep. And your organization is already at work, building support for a permanent end to estate taxes. We can accomplish this because Farm Bureau members do not hesitate to work with their members of Congress to obtain the results that we need to improve our net income and to enhance the quality of rural life.

Your ability to represent your interests politically through Farm Bureau is well known and admired. Fortune magazine surveyed every member of Congress, senior Capitol Hill staffers, senior White House aides, professional lobbyists and top-ranking officers of the largest lobbying groups in Washington. AFBF ranked 15th in the list of most influential organizations, up from 21st in the previous poll.

We work hard and long to justify this reputation. Last year, 35 state Farm Bureaus sent delegations of farm leaders to meet with their legislators and explain Farm Bureau's positions on key issues and why farm families need the results our policies seek. Thousands more members, through our agricultural contact program, communicate with their senators and representative – by phone, mail, email, or personal visit to a local field office near home.

Farm Bureau Policies are Written to be Implemented

Such actions achieve the results we need, such as the recent decision by the Environmental Protection Agency to maintain the reformulated gasoline oxygen requirement. Since the petroleum-based additive MTBE is being phased out for environmental reasons, ethanol is the main beneficiary of the ruling that denied California's request for a waiver. As a result, that state is expected to use 580 million gallons of ethanol, which will be made from 230 million bushels of corn. This should boost corn prices 10-15 cents per bushel, adding as much as $1 billion to the value of our national corn crop. Other states are in the process of prohibiting MTBE use, so ethanol's demand for our corn should go even higher.

There is little time to savor such hard-fought victories. Farm and ranch families must maintain our efforts to achieve tangible and intangible results – the economic, social, physical and philosophical goals we state in our policy book. Working together, through Farm Bureau, we will add to our past accomplishments to build a better future for us and those who follow.