WOOD RIVER, NEB. – Nebraska agriculture and elected leaders rallied together at Husker Harvest Days, the state’s largest farm show, Tuesday, Sept. 14 to urge Nebraskans to join the fight to stop federal proposals to increase taxes on Nebraska family farms, ranches, and businesses, while also sharing opposition to the Biden administration’s plans to undo existing water regulations, which the partners fear could result in expanded federal authority over of private lands and waters.
Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, Congressman Don Bacon (NE-2), and representatives from Nebraska Farm Bureau, Nebraska Cattlemen, Nebraska Corn Growers Association, Nebraska State Dairy Association, Nebraska Grain Sorghum Association, Nebraska Soybean Association, Nebraska Pork Producers Association, and the Nebraska Wheat Growers Association united to share concerns during a media event. While unable to attend in person, Sen. Deb Fischer (NE-R), Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (NE-1), and Congressman Adrian Smith (NE-3) also offered support for the groups’ efforts via video messages.
“Agriculture is the heart and soul of what we do here in Nebraska. It’s what drives our economy, and yet the Biden Administration seems intent on undermining agriculture and our way of life. Whether it’s the lack of support for a robust Renewable Fuel Standard or the radical 30 x 30 plan, the Biden Administration has not been thoughtful about how to support agriculture. And now they’re doubling down with tax hike proposals and expanding federal control and regulation of our water resources. It’s time for Nebraskans to stand shoulder to shoulder with our farm and ranch families and to push back on this federal overreach,” said Governor Ricketts.
The groups took aim at legislative proposals supported by the Biden administration and members of Congress to increase taxes to offset federal spending, specifically proposals to reduce estate tax exemptions, increase corporate and business taxes, in addition to increasing capital gains taxes by eliminating “stepped-up basis” tax provisions.
“Stepped-up basis is a long-standing and key tax provision that helps family farms and businesses pass from one generation to the next without facing huge capital gains tax bills. Elimination of stepped-up basis threatens the future of family farms and businesses. No farm or business should find itself in the position of needing to sell a part of their land or operation just to pay capital gains taxes,” said Mark McHargue, Nebraska Farm Bureau president.
Lance Atwater, a second-generation farmer from Ayr who serves as the young farmer and rancher representative on the Nebraska Farm Bureau Board of Directors told attendees that his family is in discussions about how to transition the family farm to him and his sister.
“If Congress eliminates stepped-up basis and increases taxes, it’s going to be much harder for my sister and I to transition the farm so it can carry on into the future. Taxing our farm and ranch families more is not what’s going to keep them in business, that’s what will drive them out of business,” said Atwater. “It’s imperative we in agriculture share our stories about how this will be detrimental to our families, our state, and our economy.”
Ken Herz, a cattle producer, and past president of the Nebraska Cattlemen from Lawrence reiterated the devastating impact of eliminating stepped-up basis, having just completed estate planning for transitioning his family operation to his sons.
“Protecting stepped-up basis is critical to protecting the next generation of farmers and ranchers. The economic impact of a repeal of stepped-up basis on family farms upon death and transfer would cause an immediate one-time tax liability equivalent to 280 percent of the operation’s annual income, a tax burden that would be too large for my sons to overcome,” said Herz.
The groups also took aim at the EPA’s plan to undo a President Trump era “Navigable Waters Protection Rule”, which replaced a much maligned “Waters of the U.S.” Rule (WOTUS) proposal. The groups previously helped defeat WOTUS which reflected a massive expansion of federal power over private lands and waters by expanding the definition of “navigable waters” to include puddles and ditches that would have subjected virtually every landowner to additional federal permitting and regulatory requirements.
“When I ran for Congress in 2015, WOTUS was one of the top two or three issues I’d hear about in Nebraska. EPA was attempting to call ditches ‘rivers’, and puddles ‘lakes’ to take away farmers’ ability to use their land. Under the Trump administration we were able to fix that, but this new Administration is taking us back to the future, back to the bad. We can’t undermine agriculture,” said Congressman Don Bacon.
Andy Jobman, a fifth-generation farmer from Gothenburg and president of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association called regulatory overreach from the Administration and EPA’s efforts to redo current water regulations “troubling”.
“I did not think we’d be here talking about “Waters of the U.S.” once again, but yet here we are. I think many in agriculture find it insulting that a federal agency thinks that agriculture producers in Nebraska, the number one irrigation state in the nation, need their help managing water. It would be an incredible overreach for the federal government to consider regulating the puddles and ephemeral ditches that run for short times during rain events,” said Jobman.
The groups actively encouraged Nebraskans to help support efforts to stop federal tax hikes and revisions to the water rule by urging Nebraskans to sign the Nebraskans for Tax Truth coalition petition supporting reasonable tax policy at www.nebraskansfortaxtruth.org. Nebraskans for Tax Truth is a coalition formed by the Nebraska Farm Bureau and the NE Chamber.
Nebraskans were encouraged to help stop EPA’s water revision efforts by visiting the Common Sense Nebraska coalition’s Facebook page. Common Sense Nebraska is a wide-ranging coalition of Nebraska-based entities and organizations that formed in opposition to the 2015 EPA WOTUS Rule.