On Sunday morning (Jan. 13), Bob Stallman, American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) president, took to the podium at the opening of the AFBF annual meeting carrying a long list of farm country issues – both tribulations and triumphs -- to highlight.

2012 was not an easy ride for too many farmers who watched a vast swath of farmland burn up in drought, Congress dither over a new farm bill, and saw the unintended consequences of several states passing legislation aimed to deal with migrant labor problems. While pointing to better days ahead, Stallman addressed it all.

“Our issues are often complex and sometimes misunderstood by those outside Farm Bureau. For farmers and ranchers, they are not political issues. They are not ‘red’ or ‘blue’ issues. They are issues of survival! Farm Bureau must remain vigilant, always on guard, for policies or regulations that threaten us with real and substantial impacts on our ability to farm.”

Farm bill

While ruing the inability of Congress to, “take much concrete action during an election year” on a new farm bill, Stallman said, “after the election, it was time to stop campaigning and start governing.”

The extension of the 2008 farm bill “is not perfect but at least it gives us certainty for 2013. Now, we need the new Congress to show the leadership needed to pass long-term farm policy and enact the kind of reforms that the Senate and the House Agriculture Committee have approved.”

Congress’ intransigence must end, said Stallman. “We must let them know that our nation can no longer afford political drama, manufactured crises and self-serving jackass stubbornness. We have grown tired of that ‘reality show.’

“Our economy has been taken to the precipice. And even after the ‘fiscal cliff’ debate earlier this month, we remain on a collision course with the true reality of our nation’s debt…

“We have some big problems to solve, and we can’t begin to solve them until we at least agree to talk with each other and agree that those problems even exist.”

Estate taxes

Stallman also pointed to a positive outcome for farming families with the permanent reform of estate taxes and capital gains taxes during the recent lame duck session. “Long before the rest of the country started talking about a fiscal cliff, farm and ranch families were looking at going over a tax cliff. They were facing an estate tax threshold of just $1 million and an estate tax rate of as much as 55 percent beginning Jan 1.”

More here.

While many might believe a $1 million cut-off is plenty generous, Stallman said Iowa State University found that in 2012 the average value of farmland in Iowa was estimated at nearly $8,300 per acre.

“With an estate tax threshold of $1 million, can you calculate how many acres of Iowa farmland it would take for the estate tax to kick in? It’s not 1,000 acres. Not even 500 acres. It’s only 120 acres.

“Think about the number of acres you farm and having to come up with as much as 55 percent of the value of your land above that threshold.

“The estate tax has been a threat to our heritage of families passing farms from one generation to the next. And even though it is permanently reduced, it has not gone away. It will still threaten some farms and ranches. But putting permanently lower rates and a higher exemption in place is a big victory -- one that Farm Bureau members have worked hard to achieve.”