WASHINGTON – As the U.S. Congress readies to vote on a major overhaul of the nation’s tax system, National Farmers Union (NFU) is urging lawmakers to vote against the current plan because of its regressive structure and devastating implications for the nation’s financial standing, farm program spending, and health care affordability for family farmers and ranchers.
NFU President Roger Johnson sent a letter to members of Congress, highlighting the family farm organization’s major concerns with the bill and noting that NFU plans to score the votes on its voter scorecard. The NFU Board of Directors today voted to oppose the current tax plan because of its implications for the federal deficit and future farm spending.
“This final compromise bill is an unfortunate reflection of the partisan and hurried nature of the tax reform debate that has consumed Washington for the past month,” said Johnson. “What congressional leadership has come up with is a patchwork of handouts for the wealthiest corporations and individuals in our country that will be paid for by family farmers, ranchers, the lower and middle classes, and our future generations. We strongly urge Congress to reject such severely flawed legislation.”
Johnson cited the projected $1.45 trillion deficit increase as a result of the legislation as a primary concern for NFU. “Past efforts at tax reform have at least begun with the goal of being deficit neutral. We are extremely disappointed such an important goal was abandoned in the crafting of this legislation,” he said.
He noted that this deficit increase will likely have direct consequences for farm programs and entitlement funding, as both are expected to be debated early next year.
“With a $666 billion 2017 fiscal year deficit and $20.6 trillion of national debt, we are on an unsustainable path,” said Johnson. “Plans to cut entitlement programs appear to already be underway for 2018. We are concerned over such cuts and are further concerned that federal spending cuts will target future farm programs at a time when there is a critical need to improve the safety net for farmers who are experiencing a fifty percent loss of net farm income since the current farm bill went into effect.”
Johnson also expressed alarm over the tax bill’s removal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate and the subsequent impact on the U.S. healthcare system overall. CBO projects 13 million fewer people would have health coverage in 2027 as a result of the provision. “Repealing the mandate will make the health insurance marketplace even more unstable than it is currently, and will make it far more difficult for Congress to address increasing premium costs,” he said.
“Repeal of the individual mandate is particularly troublesome for farmers and ranchers, who are older and more likely to have preexisting conditions than the average person,” Johnson added. “Those that cannot risk going uncovered will face premium costs that are 10 percent higher than they otherwise would be.”
The conferenced bill also cuts the important “carryback” provision that helps farmers recoup net operating losses. This is vital to family farmers and ranchers, according to Johnson, especially as they deal with a severely depressed farm economy.
Johnson noted that while NFU supports simplifying the tax code and creating a more progressive tax structure, the current bill does neither. “Increasing the income level subject to the top tax rate, while also reducing the top rate is the type of regressive taxation that disadvantages small and medium-sized family farmers,” he said.