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• 2012 was not an easy ride for too many farmers who watched a vast swath of farmland burn up in drought, Congress dither over a new farm bill, and saw the unintended consequences of several states passing legislation aimed to deal with migrant labor problems.
Big problems to solve
“We have some big problems to solve, and we can’t begin to solve them until we at least agree to talk with each other and agree that those problems even exist.”
Stallman also pointed to a positive outcome for farming families with the permanent reform of estate taxes and capital gains taxes during the recent lame duck session. “Long before the rest of the country started talking about a fiscal cliff, farm and ranch families were looking at going over a tax cliff. They were facing an estate tax threshold of just $1 million and an estate tax rate of as much as 55 percent beginning Jan 1.”
While many might believe a $1 million cut-off is plenty generous, Stallman said Iowa State University found that in 2012 the average value of farmland in Iowa was estimated at nearly $8,300 per acre.
“With an estate tax threshold of $1 million, can you calculate how many acres of Iowa farmland it would take for the estate tax to kick in? It’s not 1,000 acres. Not even 500 acres. It’s only 120 acres.
“Think about the number of acres you farm and having to come up with as much as 55 percent of the value of your land above that threshold.
“The estate tax has been a threat to our heritage of families passing farms from one generation to the next. And even though it is permanently reduced, it has not gone away. It will still threaten some farms and ranches. But putting permanently lower rates and a higher exemption in place is a big victory — one that Farm Bureau members have worked hard to achieve.”
The punishing drought also warranted mention. “Lest anyone wonder why we need a farm bill, we should remember the drought of 2012. … Farmers and ranchers know better than anyone that we can’t control Mother Nature. All we can do is prepare ourselves as best we can. An important part of that preparation is having a farm safety net and good risk management programs.”
More than half of the country was in a severe drought last summer, said Stallman. “Crops withered, hay supplies disappeared, feed costs soared and wildfires blazed. Thankfully, our crop insurance program worked as intended and we live to fight another day.”
However, the effects linger. “Transportation on the Mississippi River and other inland waterways is threatened by severely low water levels. We have called for action to deepen the shipping channels so that barge traffic can get through. The Army Corps of Engineers listened and began that effort in December.”
Farm labor is also a chief concern for AFBF and Stallman played up a farm worker proposal being pushed by a coalition of agriculture groups.
“For too long, we have dealt with the shortcomings of a broken farm labor system. The results have been labor shortages, lost crops and bureaucratic nightmares. … This year, we will offer a reasonable, practical and common-sense farm labor option that works for growers and workers alike…