April 4, 2014
Still Time For Post Session Legislative Meetings County Farm Bureaus are encouraged to engage with legislators as soon as possible after the session, before planting begins and legislators actively resume their citizen roles. Please remember to report contacts with legislators using the online tool on the Public Policy team’s website.
TAX REFORM TAKES CENTER STAGE IN APRIL Both the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee plan to take action on key tax issues in April. There is much at stake for Indiana farmers, including the so-called “tax extenders” that include such items as Section 179 small business expensing, accelerated depreciation, biofuel tax credits, the fertilizer deduction and many others. These tax provisions expired at the end of 2013. The Senate Finance Committee will conduct a bill mark-up this week and the House Ways and Means Committee is expected to begin hearings on specific provisions soon.
Members are urged to contact their representatives in April to express their support for the Farm Bureau supported provisions during committee consideration of the “tax extenders” and the ongoing debate of tax reform. Farmers should also share their personal stories about how they use the tax code to maintain the economic viability of their farms and how that supports investment in their local communities, providing specific numbers if possible. Members residing in Rep. Todd Young’s district are especially needed to advocate on this issue. For more information about tax reform, or to learn how to engage on the issue, contact Kyle Cline, National Policy Advisor, firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-692-7845.
EPA PROPOSES CLEAN WATER ACT RULE: UNPRECEDENTED REGULATORY OVERREACH On March 25, 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) released a proposed rule that would assert CWA jurisdiction over nearly all areas with any hydrologic connection to downstream navigable waters, including man-made conveyances such as ditches. This rule, if implemented, would directly contradict prior U.S. Supreme Court decisions that imposed limits on the extent of federal CWA authority and it would bypass Congress and supersede the original intent of the law. The rule is flawed in a number of ways. The most problematic of these flaws concerns the significant expansion of areas defined as “waters of the U.S.” by effectively removing the word “navigable” from the definition of the CWA and creating ambiguity in interpretation. Indiana Farm Bureau staff is currently reviewing the proposed rule and will begin planning efforts soon to develop member engagement activities in the coming weeks.
FARM BUREAU SUPPORTED GMO LABELING LEGISLATION The national conversation about food with biotech ingredients, more commonly referred to as GMO food, or just GMOs, has increased in recent years, along with state and local ballot initiatives or legislative efforts to require the labeling of biotech foods. One major concern for Farm Bureau is that multiple state-level GMO safety and labeling laws would be misleading and result in higher food prices for consumers, without improving food safety. To avoid the confusion, Farm Bureau is supporting a national approach to the labeling of foods made from ingredients derived from biotechnology when labeling is deemed appropriate for health or safety reasons—when a biotech food differs materially from a food product made from conventionally grown ingredients.
Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) soon will introduce a bill that would create a national labeling program while affirming the Food and Drug Administration’s role as the nation’s food safety authority. The Pompeo-Butterfield bill would create a federal, voluntary labeling system for foods that are not made from GMO ingredients and assert FDA’s role as the authority to oversee GMOs and GMO labeling.
American Farm Bureau Federation will soon be activating its Grassroots Outreach Team to call attention to, and request action on, this timely issue. Indiana Farm Bureau staff is currently evaluating possible state-specific member engagement activities with more to come soon. Members are encouraged to contact their representatives to express support of the Pompeo/Butterfield bill for a national GMO label system.