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Opinions on effect of tax reform for farmers mixed

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Even as Republicans put their finishing touches on a tax overhaul package, Democrats criticized the impending deal as bad for farmers and middle-class Americans.

The U.S. Senate passed its version of tax reform, called the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, on Dec. 2, after a similar piece of legislation passed the House last month. The Dec. 2 vote was 51-49 along party lines, with only one Republican, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, voting against the bill.

That same day, Michigan Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint) criticized the legislation. “If you make less than $100,000, fasten your seat belts,” Kildee said on CNN. “This is a bad bill for you. If you’re a farmer in a co-op growing sugar beets in Michigan, your taxes are going to go up.

“The very people they say they want to help are actually going to get hit pretty hard. They give you an increase, for example, with the standard deduction, but then take it away with the loss of the personal exemption.”

In a separate statement the same day, Kildee said Michiganders are “working harder than ever to make ends meet. They deserve real bipartisan tax reform that puts working people first. Unfortunately, this Republican tax plan being rushed through Congress does not help the middle class. It only helps the wealthiest Americans and largest corporations.

“In the middle of the night, Republicans voted to raise taxes on tens of millions of middle-class families and give huge tax cuts to the top 1 percent of Americans and multinational corporations. If you are a homeowner, a parent, a student or a caretaker of a sick family member, you will see your taxes go up under this terrible plan.

“Republicans want the middle class to pay more in taxes while large corporations get a permanent tax cut,” he said.

But not everyone in the farming community feels this way. “We applaud the Senate’s commitment to key tax provisions farm and ranch businesses depend on, such as immediate expensing, business interest deduction and cash accounting,” said American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President Zippy Duvall, on Dec. 2.

“While we also had hoped to see the estate tax finally put to death, increasing the exemption should bring relief for many farm and ranch families looking to preserve their agricultural legacy.

“Farm Bureau looks forward to the Senate and House reconciling the differences between their respective versions in conference to achieve a final tax reform package that addresses the needs and concerns of farmers and ranchers and boosts economic growth in rural America.”

The National Farmers Union (NFU) did oppose the legislation, stating it would increase the federal deficit by $1.5 trillion, jeopardize funding for farm safety net programming and “shift the nation’s tax burden from wealthy corporations and individuals to the rest of us.”

Last week Republicans appeared confident the legislation would pass the conference committee and be signed into law this year; however, even if it doesn’t, it could be taken up again during the next legislative session in 2018.

“The reality is this, there’s not a lot of issues to wrap up,” said Marc Short, White House legislative affairs director, on CNBC Dec. 6. “We’re set to get it done by (Dec.) 22.”