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Letter to the editor: Tax-reform proposal isn’t good for farmers

As a farmer, I am very concerned about the so-called tax reform in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that was arranged behind closed doors and hurriedly passed by the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. The main features of these two bills are huge permanent tax breaks for corporations and the wealthiest people on the planet. Middle income taxpayer get modest temporary tax breaks. The differences in the two versions will now be bargained out in a partisan closed-door conference committee. What is the hurry? Why the closed door partisan sessions? Where are the public forums in farm country?

Supporters of this tax mess don’t seem to understand the effects it will have on family farmers and ranchers. Independent nonpartisan analysis says it will add $1.5 trillion to the national debt. A statutory provision called PAYGO requires automatic cuts to certain programs to offset increases in deficit spending. The size of this deficit could mean the total elimination of the funding for ARC, PLC, disaster assistance programs, administrative costs for crop insurance delivery and many other programs. Given the extreme weather conditions we have experienced in North Dakota this year on top of the already low commodity prices we have been experiencing, this would just be another blow to the farm economy of our state. I don’t think farmers and ranchers, particularly beginning farmers or ranchers, can afford to see the safety net decimated at this time.

In addition, PAYGO rules will hamper and may even prevent the passage of a new farm bill in 2018.

Rather than tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, we should be investing those resources in our roads, bridges, railroads and waterways so that we can get our crops and livestock to market in a timely and cost-effective manner. This would be a long-term win-win for family farms and corporations alike. I am always grateful to those who came before and chose to invest in the future.

Whatever finally emerges from this secret partisan process will not be good for the bottom line of agricultural producers in this country. It is time to call our senators and representatives and inform them of that fact and also remind them that they were elected to represent us, the actual creators of wealth, and not just the wealthy and corporations of this country.