The president of the largest U.S. farm group called for members to bring the “same energy and devotion when it comes to WOTUS” that they used last year to preserve a tax break on inherited property. President Zippy Duvall said the American Farm Bureau Federation also influenced legislation and USDA programs on climate mitigation to ensure that they “respect farmers.”
In a speech opening the AFBF annual convention, Duvall asked members to “get engaged today” in the debate over the upstream reach of clean water laws. The AFBF claims it has close to 6 million members. The Biden administration announced last November that it would re-establish the “waters of the United States” definition, known as WOTUS, that was in place before 2015, a step that would repeal a narrow regulation written during the Trump era.
“Lawmakers heard us loud and clear [in 2021], and we succeeded in protecting stepped-up basis for the survival of our family farms,” said Duvall, referring to tax break for heirs. “We need that same energy and passion when it comes to WOTUS. It is critical that this administration understands that we should not need a team of lawyers and consultants just to farm our land.”
While most farming activities are exempted from water pollution rules, farmers fear complicated regulations. The AFBF was a leader in opposing the 2015 Obama-era water regulations, which it claimed were too broad. Environmentalists claim that Trump’s rule left half of the U.S.’s wetlands and millions upon millions of miles without protection from pollution.
President Biden proposed stricter enforcement of capital gains taxes to help pay for his “build back better” package, but House Democrats decided last fall against altering the “stepped-up basis” tax break that helps farmers pass land from generation to generation. Farmland and other property is taxed at current value when it is inherited —the “step up” — rather than on the increase in value since it was acquired.
If property is sold soon after it has been inherited, the tax burden on the step-up basis is reduced. It also reduces your estate tax liability. Only a small number of farm households are required by federal law to file an estate-tax return. Most of them don’t pay any money.
The White House stated that its plan would not increase capital gain taxes on heirs who want to keep the family farm going. The AFBF stated that the tax code would have profound effects. It eventually opposed passage of the “build back better” bill.
Duvall also claimed that recommendations from the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance (FACA), a food, forestry, farm, and environmental coalition cofounded by the AFBF, “not only guided climate discussions in D.C., they are the foundation of legislation and USDA programs that respect farmers.”
Founded in 2020, FACA has advocated voluntary action and “market-driven opportunities,” such as contracts and tax credits for carbon sequestration. More recently, FACA said the USDA should experiment with pilot projects to identify fruitful avenues for climate mitigation before setting up a so-called carbon bank.
While there are many opinions on the role of a carbon bank in climate mitigation, key Republican senators believe that the USDA lacks the authority or the funding to create one. Agriculture’s role in climate mitigation may be a leading issue for the next farm policy law, due in 2023.
10% of U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions can be attributed to agriculture. Previous climate change mitigation proposals were thwarted by opposition from the farm sector.
To read the text of Duvall’s speech, click here.
A video of the speech is available here.
Source: Successful Farming