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Letter to the editor: Farmers used as political pawns to sell bill

North Dakota’s farmers and ranchers are facing tough economic times right now — commodity prices are low, net farm incomes have dropped and we are rebounding from a drought that impacted nearly every farmer and rancher in western North Dakota. That’s why tax reform needs to help North Dakota farmers and ranchers succeed and compete across the country and on the global playing field.

Simply put, tax reform should help lift farmers up — but the Republican plan is going to drag our agricultural economy down even further.

The Congressional Budget Office shows the Washington Republican tax plan would add $1.5 trillion to the national debt. That’s money that won’t go toward rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges to help farmers get their commodities to market. And it’s money that won’t go toward a strong farm safety net to help our agricultural producers who are at the mercy of Mother Nature every day.

Additionally, by spending more than a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, sequestration will be even more severe on farm safety net programs. The “Statutory-Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2010” requires that new legislation does not collectively increase estimated deficits. The CBO has warned the White House that based upon PAYGO law the sequestration would be $90 billion for 2018. That means 100 percent sequestration on many farm programs including Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage.

Unfortunately, it looks like Speaker Paul Ryan, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and even our own Rep. Kevin Cramer left farmers behind on tax reform.

Worse, they used farmers as political pawns to sell this monstrosity of a bill.

I’ve often heard from Republican politicians who use the estate tax to scare farmers for votes. But let’s be clear: The estate tax doesn’t impact your average farmer here in North Dakota — or frankly, your average farmer anywhere in this country. In fact, IRS data show that fewer than 10 returns in North Dakota were required to file for the tax in 2016. That’s because the threshold is intentionally high to shield family farmers from the tax — well over $5 million if you’re single, and $11 million for a couple. But Republicans used farmers as an excuse to double this threshold in order to give tax cuts to millionaires and donors lining their campaign coffers.

That’s just not right — and it’s not fiscally responsible, either. North Dakota’s farmers and ranchers deserve real tax reform. They deserve tax cuts for middle-class families and small businesses, not just millionaires and corporations.

Washington insiders like Ryan, McConnell and Cramer can continue trying to play farmers and ranchers for fools — but we know better and we won’t fall for it.

Krauter, a farmer, was USDA-Farm Service Agency state executive director from 2009-2017 and a North Dakota

Democratic state senator from 1990 to 2009.