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November 15, 2012

A Lot Is Riding on the Lame Duck Session

For more information on Newsline, contact: Kari Barbic, Media Specialist, American Farm Bureau Federation, karib@fb.org.

The term “lame duck session” may not instill a lot of confidence in Congress’s ability to get things done, but American Farm Bureau Director of Public Policy Mark Maslyn says the looming “fiscal cliff” means there are things that must get done this year. AFBF’s Johnna Miller has this report. 
Miller:If you turn on the news these days, chances are good you’ll hear someone mention “the fiscal cliff.” That combination of automatic spending cuts and expiring tax breaks will affect the whole economy, including U.S. agriculture.
Maslyn:The expiring tax provisions are critical. The estate tax exemption is scheduled to reduce from $5 million to $1 million. That will ensnare a large number of farms and impact the ability of farmers and ranchers to pass the farm on from one generation to the next. In addition to that the capital gains tax rate is scheduled to increase from 15 percent to 20 percent and again, for agriculture, farming and ranching, it’s a land-intensive business and that will have a disproportionate impact on farmers and ranchers.
Miller:American Farm Bureau Federation Director of Public Policy Mark Maslyn says agriculture would also be hurt by the spending cuts.
Maslyn:Some of those affect agricultural programs, conservation and commodity programs, as well as programs at USDA on the discretionary side, research, Extension, education, rural development and so forth.
Miller:But farmers and ranchers are also eager for Congress to move on the farm bill, because as of the new year it will revert back to the 1949 version.
Maslyn:The full House has not taken up the issue and we’re hopeful that they will in this post-election session and that will allow, if there’s enough time, to get to conference this year. Otherwise the farm bill has expired and a number of the programs will have to be extended. They’ll have to do something about the Act of 1949. So something will have to occur with regard to the farm policy, either completing the work this year or an extension of some sort into 2013. 
Miller:Johnna Miller, Washington.
Miller:We have two extra actualities with AFBF Director of Public Policy Mark Maslyn. In the first extra actuality he explains why there is so much focus on “the fiscal cliff.” The cut runs 12 seconds, in 3-2-1.
Maslyn:The main event in this year’s lame duck session is how to address the automatic spending cuts that are set to take effect on January 1 and then what to do about the expiring tax cuts that will affect millions of Americans.
Miller:In the second extra actuality Maslyn talks about another issue he hopes could get done in the lame duck session of Congress. The cut runs 35 seconds, in 3-2-1.
Maslyn:Earlier this year Russia joined the World Trade Organization, the WTO. In order for the United States to take full advantage of Russia’s membership in the WTO we have to give them permanent normal trade relations status. There are some 1970s Cold War era restrictions on that that have to be eliminated but it’s important. What it means for the United States is increased exports to some degree, but even more importantly, we’ll be able to take advantage of Russia’s commitments as a member of the WTO to live by the international trade rules and to insist on enforcement of those rules if they stray from them.
Miller:Newsline is updated Mondays and Thursdays by 5pm Eastern time. Thank you for listening.

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