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Viewpoints: Farmers will benefit greatly from tax reform

By Sonny Perdue

Special to The News

In order to free the economy from entanglements, President Trump has pursued polices to allow the American entrepreneurial spirit to thrive. Just as he did in aggressively and effectively dismantling unnecessary and meddlesome regulations, he is now taking on the federal tax code. His agenda of tax cuts and reforms will create jobs and stimulate growth across the entire economy, including the agricultural sector.

As far as the farmers, ranchers, foresters and producers I’ve spoken with are concerned, our nation’s lawmakers should wrestle the tax code to the ground and calf-rope it. The people want and need real tax cuts and reforms now.

The unified framework, which the president supports, proposes tax cuts and reforms that will provide relief for the middle class, which is where many family-owned farms find themselves. The framework will reduce tax rates and double the standard deduction, while also making filing taxes more simple and fair. Most Americans will be able to file their tax return on one page. The business reforms will lead to higher productivity, resulting in higher wages. Overall, the typical American family will on average see a $4,000 increase in wages.

As secretary of agriculture, it’s important to me that the president’s tax reform will help farmers, since most of them file and pay individual tax returns. While we want our farmers to grow our food and fiber, in order to continue that important work, they must also be able to operate their businesses. The current tax code is a burden that strangles investment and smothers growth. Farmers cannot buy seed with money that they must spend on tax attorneys and accountants. They cannot invest in irrigation and new equipment with money they must spend to comply with the millstone of oppressive regulation and high taxes.

Two issues related to farming are transportation and trade. Producers must be able to move their products to market before they can ever sell them, either domestically or to foreign consumers.

In promoting his tax relief agenda to a large group of truckers in Pennsylvania, Trump observed that “when the trucks are moving, that means our economy is moving.” Tax reform is good for truckers and it is good for farmers, too. Trucks rolling down the highways loaded with American farm products, headed to domestic and international customers, are good for the agricultural economy and good for the American economy.

The unified tax reform framework will also eliminate what is perhaps the most unjust tax ever imposed – the “death tax.” One-third of American farmers are over the age of 65 and the time is coming when their farms will pass to the next generation. The death tax threatens to break up family farms just to pay the tax bill, causing too many people to spend too much money hiring accountants and buying insurance to shield their life’s work from this unfair levy.

Some attempt to dismiss the plan to repeal the death tax as affecting too few family farms, but as many hardworking families can attest, it doesn’t take that much land to push the farm’s net value over the threshold. It’s an old unfunny joke that farmers live cash poor, but die land rich. Repealing the death tax would put an end to this tax burden.

Farming families put generations of sweat, hard work and risk into building their livelihoods. Their greatest hope is to pass their farms to the next generation, but they lie in bed at night worrying if it all will be undone by the tax bill. The toll of our tax code on farmers is greater than the sum of the numbers on a spreadsheet. The cost of time, creative thinking, innovation and positive vision that is robbed by our existing tax code cannot be completely quantified – but these costs are real.

The president has delivered a framework that will fuel American prosperity. When the president’s tax agenda is fully implemented, American farmers will again be able to focus their creativity and innovation on what they do best – feeding, fueling and clothing the world.

Sonny Perdue is the U.S. secretary of agriculture.

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