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Quick hits from Capitol Hill

Article cover photo
A worker pulls the tarp over a truckload of imported grain in Mexico recently. The White House announced late Wednesday evening the U.S. will remain in the agreement but enter negotiations with Canada and Mexico to “modernize” NAFTA — a $3 billion market for soybeans. (Photo by: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

By Easton Kuboushek, ISA communications specialist

Farmers have been hearing acronyms like NAFTA, names like Perdue and something about taxes from the White House for a week straight. Here’s the 10-second skinny to keep up on policies impacting soybean farmers.

NAFTA nervousness

Rumor of an executive order to withdrawal from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) raised concerns this week. This prompted ag groups to reaffirm the importance of NAFTA and trade agreements like it for the viability of U.S. ag exports.

The White House announced late Wednesday evening the U.S. will remain in the agreement, but work to "modernize" NAFTA with Canada and Mexico — a combined $3 billion market for U.S. soybeans.

“NAFTA gives soybean farmers access to major markets without the burden of tariffs,” said Grant Kimberley, ISA director of market development. “Mexico alone is the largest importer of soybean meal and third in whole soybeans — this is an important deal.”

American Soybean Association (ASA) reported situations like this demonstrate the importance of having key administration personnel like the Agriculture Secretary and U.S. Trade Representative in place.

Secretary of Agriculture confirmed

Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue was confirmed as the 31st Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) by the U.S. Senate on April 25.

Perdue is a former farmer, veterinarian, ag businessman and legislator, USDA reported, and his policies will be guided by four principles:

  1. Maximize the ability of the men and women of America’s agriculture and agribusiness sector to create jobs, to produce and sell the foods and fiber that feed and clothe the world, and to reap the earned reward of their labor. It should be the aim of the American government to remove every obstacle and give farmers, ranchers and producers every opportunity to prosper.
  2. Prioritize customer service every day for American taxpayers and consumers. They will expect, and have every right to demand, their government conduct the people’s business efficiently, effectively, and with the utmost integrity.
  3. Americans expect a safe and secure food supply; USDA will continue to serve in the critical role of ensuring the food we put on the table to feed our families meets the strict safety standards we’ve established. Food security is a key component of national security, because hunger and peace do not long coexist.
  4. Always remember America’s agricultural bounty comes directly from the land. And today, those land resources sustain more than 320 million Americans and countless millions more around the globe.

Grassley leads bipartisan biodiesel tax credit legislation

A bipartisan reform to the biodiesel tax credit made its way to the Senate this week. S.944, the American Renewable Fuel and Job Creation Act of 2017, aims to switch the current blenders tax credit to a producer tax credit and extends the life of the bill for three years.

Switching to a producer credit and extending the bill improves profitability and stability in the biodiesel market. Currently biodiesel adds an estimated 63 cents in value to every bushel of soybeans.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Grassley (R-Iowa), Sen. Cantwell (D-Wash.) and the other 14 senators on Wednesday.

ASA expects a companion bill to be introduced in the House soon.

Could Trump’s tax plan benefit farmers?

Trumps proposed tax reform looks good for corporations, but it could also bode well for farmers.

The broad outline of the POTUS’s plan released Wednesday proposes slashing tax rates to 15 percent for corporations and owner-operator businesses — like farming. The discrepancy will come on whether or not farming is included in the definition of owner-operator.

It also proposes eliminating the estate tax, capping the capital gains tax at 20 percent and lowering the number of tax brackets to three — 10, 25 and 35 percent — and eliminating deductions except for charitable contributions and mortgage payments.

Like what you see?

Tune in and get involved with ISA policy by becoming an Advocate Member. Learn more about ways to engage by emailing Heather Lilienthal at hlilienthal@iasoybeans.com

For permission to republish articles or to request high-res photos contact Aaron Putze at aputze@iasoybeans.com.

©2017 Iowa Soybean Association On-Farm Network®. All rights reserved. On-Farm Network® is a registered trademark of the Iowa Soybean Association, Ankeny, IA.Portions of some On-Farm Network trials are paid for in total or in part by the soybean checkoff.

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August 2017 Contact Ann Clinton for past publications.