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Senators, Industry Welcome Agreement on Agribusiness Tax Inequity
South Dakota Ag Connection - 03/14/2018

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) Tuesday joined U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), John Thune (R-S.D.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.) in issuing the following joint statement regarding an agreement to provide fair tax treatment for all agricultural businesses:

"The new, pro-growth tax law was designed to lift hard-working, middle-class families -- whether they are farmers, ranchers or entrepreneurs -- and the economy as a whole. After discovering an unintended consequence that created an inequity within the agricultural business community, we've worked extensively with stakeholders, our colleagues and the administration to develop a solution that will level the playing field and ensure the nation's cooperatives, independent small businesses and publicly traded firms can fairly benefit from pro-growth tax reform. The stakeholder-driven agreement announced today achieves this goal and restores balanced competition within the marketplace. We're committed to working with our colleagues to act swiftly on the measure and get it signed into law as soon as possible."

The National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC) and National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) also issued a joint statement regarding a stakeholder-driven proposal to resolve the unintended consequences of Section 199A of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

The two organizations said they support inclusion of the legislation to amend Section 199A as part of the fiscal year 2018 Omnibus appropriations bill this month, and believe it warrants bipartisan support. The legislation, if approved by Congress, would be retroactive to the start of the 2018 tax year on Jan. 1.

NCFC and NGFA expressed appreciation to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation for developing legislative language over the last week that is designed to achieve the two fundamental objectives of stakeholders:

- First, to replicate to the greatest extent possible the tax benefits accorded to farmer-owned cooperatives and their farmer-patrons under the previous Section 199, also known as the Domestic Production Activities Deduction (DPAD), of the tax code, as it existed prior to its repeal in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act enacted on Dec. 23, 2017; and

- Second, to restore the competitive landscape of the marketplace as it existed in December 2017 so that the tax code does not provide an incentive for farmers to do business with a company purely because it is organized as a cooperative or private/independent firm.

"Throughout the tax reform process that began last year, NCFC has consistently called on Congress to retain DPAD for famer co-ops and their member-owners and this legislation largely meets that goal. The old Section 199 had a proven track record of letting farmers keep more of their hard-earned money. We expect these provisions to do the same," said Chuck Conner, president and CEO of NCFC. "By combining the individual-level business deductions that farmers can claim and the pass-through from their co-ops, farmers selling to cooperatives have the opportunity to see benefits in excess of the 20 percent 199A pass-through deduction."

"We would also like to recognize the tireless efforts of Sens. John Thune of South Dakota and John Hoeven of North Dakota to ensure fair treatment for farmer co-ops and their member-owners," Conner continued. "They have brought together both sides and fostered an atmosphere that has made today's proposal possible."

NGFA President and CEO Randy Gordon said great care was taken by stakeholders to develop a concept that provides tax relief to farmers, as envisioned in the tax-reform law, while restoring to the maximum extent possible the competitive balance in the marketplace. NGFA noted its members consist of an almost equal number of grain, feed and grain-processing businesses organized as cooperatives and private/independents.

"Given the complexities of the issue and the different types and sizes of businesses, no legislation will ever be perfect for every income or business situation," Gordon said. "But the stakeholder concepts on which this legislative language is based have been analyzed and reanalyzed in excruciating detail by tax experts representing both cooperative and private/independent businesses, as well as Congressional tax staff experts. We believe the solution merits enactment so that competitive choices remain available to agricultural producers and the marketplace -- not the tax code -- determines with whom they do business. We appreciate the commitment of members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, to get it fixed."

NCFC and NGFA said they will remain engaged on this critical issue until a stakeholder-led solution is enacted by Congress.

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