Farmers and Ranchers Need a Simple, Fair Tax Code

Viewpoints / Beyond the Fencerows April 14, 2017

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By Zippy Duvall

President, American Farm Bureau

I don’t know any farmers who work in a perfect environment, free from any risks or elements beyond their control. Sober reminders are all around us these days.  From raging wildfires and nonstop rains to the challenging farm economy, many farmers and ranchers are doing their best to hold on for better days. Agriculture is not a business for the faint of heart—it takes a lot of faith and perseverance, even in the best of circumstances.

Congress can’t change the weather, but it can do a lot to improve the climate for running a farm or ranch. Farmers and ranchers grow food, fuel and fiber in a world of uncertainty. We need a tax code that recognizes the unique financial challenges we face, and we need flexibility to run and expand our businesses.

Our tax laws should promote the business of farming and ranching, rather than punishing those who commit their lives to working in agriculture. Farmers shouldn’t be penalized for having a good year or for building a family business they can pass on to the next generation. When farmers must pay expenses to play defense against estate taxes, rather than investing those resources to make their farm better, we all suffer a loss. 

Today, about 99 percent of America’s farms and ranches are family owned, and Farm Bureau is committed to protecting our ability to pass on a thriving agricultural legacy to the next generation. It’s time to bury the death tax, and we’re asking Congress to do just that with the Death Tax Repeal Act of 2017.

I’m proud of America’s tradition of farms passing from one generation to the next. The entrepreneurial spirit of first-generation farmers and ranchers is another source of pride. With a growing population to feed, we need more young men and women to join in the important work we do. Tax reform can help. Reducing capital gains taxes makes it easier for beginning farmers to buy land, and the business expense interest deduction helps them invest in the equipment they need.

At Farm Bureau, we’re pleased to see the U.S. House taking steps to improve our nation’s tax code with its blueprint for tax reform. Comprehensive tax reform is critical to boosting the economy for all Americans, and to do that the tax code must include provisions that farmers and ranchers count on to keep our businesses running. That’s why we’re calling on the House to approve tax provisions that give farmers the flexibility they need, like immediate expensing for our inputs, stepped-up basis, cash accounting and like-kind exchanges.

Agriculture creates jobs on and off the farm, boosts the economy, creates a positive trade balance and plays a vital role in conserving our open spaces and natural resources. When farmers and ranchers have the freedom to reap the harvest of their hard work and then replant that capital back in their businesses and rural communities, we all benefit. Whether a farm is first- or fifth-generation, decreasing the burden of taxes is one area where policymakers can help us offset the many uncontrollable factors we face.

Farmers and ranchers are committed to being good stewards of all the resources we’ve been entrusted with. We expect our lawmakers to be good stewards as well—to use their authority for the good of the nation and craft laws that protect the hardworking men and women of this country. Tax reform is one way we can all work together to build a better economy now and for our future.

Zippy Duvall

Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia, is the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. You can follow him on Twitter @ZippyDuvall.

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