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Commodity Communicator Weekly

March 30, 2012

DEATH TAX REPEAL PERMANENCY ACT INTRODUCED . . . .Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) on Wednesday introduced the Death Tax Repeal Permanency Act. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) introduced identical legislation in the House; the bill has more than 200 bipartisan co-sponsors.

 “The death of a loved one should not be a taxable event,” said Thune. “The federal government has no place being in the business of forcing grieving families to pay a tax on their loved one’s life savings that has been built from income already taxed when originally earned. Sadly, this tax is often paid by selling the family farm or life-long business. Other times, employees of the family business must be laid off and payrolls are slashed in order to pay the burdensome death tax. Let’s permanently repeal this punitive tax once and for all.”

 Not only would Thune’s bill repeal the federal estate tax, but it would also repeal the generation skipping transfer tax, make permanent the maximum 35 percent gift tax rate and a $5 million lifetime gift tax exemption, and maintain the stepped-up basis provisions important to family farms and businesses.  According to a recent study by Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the former director of the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, repealing the death tax would create 1.5 million additional small business jobs and would decrease the national unemployment rate by nearly 1 percent.

 Farm Bureau supports the legislation.  AFBF backgrounder on estate tax reform

For more information contact: Gene Martin

 FARM BANKS INCREASED AG LOANS AND ADDED JOBS IN 2011. . . .More than 6,300 jobs added by farm banks in rural America since 2007, according to ABA study

 The nation's 2,185 farm banks increased farm and ranch lending $3.8 billion or 5.6 percent in 2011, for a total outstanding balance of $72.3 billion. "The growth in farm loans shows banks continue to meet the credit needs of both large and small farms and remain the most important supplier of agricultural credit," said John Blanchfield, senior vice president and director of ABA's Center for Agricultural & Rural Banking.

 Farm banks added 6,327 jobs in rural America since 2007, a 7.8 percent increase, and employed a total of 86,984 men and women at the end of 2011.

For more information contact: Gene Martin  

OIG CALLS FOR STRONGER OVERSIGHT OF CHECKOFF BOARDS. . . .USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) needs to strengthen its governance over the 19 research and promotion boards that the agency oversees by developing standard operating procedures and stronger guidance to ensure consistency in staff oversight, according to a new USDA Office of Inspector General (OIG) report released yesterday. The boards collected about $528 million in checkoff or assessment fees in 2009.

 The OIG said it initiated the audit, at the request of AMS’s former administrator, after questions were first raised regarding activities within the United Soybean Board (USB) and the United States Soybean Export Council (USSEC). The investigative report, issued in July 2010, stated that “there was insufficient evidence to support the allegations made by the complainant. However, agents working on the investigation were concerned that allegations were in areas overseen by AMS, but had not been detected by agency officials.

After reviewing current procedures, the OIG made two recommendations that AMS will implement: (1) AMS will strengthen internal controls related to its oversight of board activities and develop Standard Operating Procedures (SOP); and (2) AMS will develop guidance to conduct periodic internal reviews of its progress in strengthening oversight.

In addition to the specific recommendations offered in the OIG report, AMS is also announcing a new policy that will strongly encourage upfront referendums as the preferable process to establishing all future Research and Promotion programs. “This will allow more direct engagement from interested stakeholders and the public prior to the establishment of a potential program and conforms to the Department’s overall mission to provide additional transparency to the Research and Promotion programs,” AMS explained.

For more information contact: Gene Martin

HAPPY COWS . . . .Dairy farmers have got more important things to worry about.  That’s what an editorial in the Merced (Calif.) Sun-Star asks about the lawsuit filed by an animal-rights group against the California “Happy Cows” advertising campaign.

According to the Sun-Star’s editorial, which appeared Wednesday, the animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals seems more interested in publicity than in the welfare of livestock — or human beings.

Dairy farmers on the California Milk Advisory Board are currently giving testimony about their “Happy Cows” advertising campaign, following a court order.  The judge is scheduled to hear further arguments on May 25.

For more information contact: Bruce Tencleve


PRESERVING RURAL RESOURCES ACT INTRODUCED IN HOUSE. . . .The Preserving Rural Resources Act (H.R. 4278) was introduced in the House of Representatives on Wednesday. The legislation reinforces agricultural exemptions granted to farmers and ranchers by Congress in Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.

 “Without these exemptions, farmers, ranchers and the forestry community will face increased federal regulatory and compliance costs, as well as constraints on land used for the production of food, fiber and fuel,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. “We’ve seen a concerted effort by regulators to narrow the scope and usefulness of the CWA exemption Congress explicitly intended for agriculture. This legislation is intended to reaffirm congressional intent,” he added. 

 Reps. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.) and Robert Hurt (R-Va.) introduced the bill

For more information contact:.. .Brandy Carroll

 APPLY TODAY FOR WOMEN’S COMMUNICATIONS BOOT CAMP . . .Apply today to attend the sixth annual Women’s Communications Boot Camp, sponsored by the AFB Women’s Leadership Committee. Applicants must be women who are Farm Bureau members. The program is open to all women who are members of Farm Bureau, not just those involved in Women’s Leadership committees. Staff of AFBF, state/county Farm Bureaus or affiliated companies are not eligible to participate. April 20 is the deadline for applications.

 Complete details and an application form are available online.

For more information contact: Brandy Carroll


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