On Monday, Trump went to American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual convention in Nashville to tout his tax law and preview a new strategy to help rural America but his administration is working on legislation and policies that are the exact opposite of what most farmers and ranchers say the need. Threats to terminate NAFTA and other trade agreements that have expanded agriculture exports to the advantage of American farmers and ranchers aren’t helping rural economies.
Just look at the tax law he signed as one example. According to analyses of the tax law by economists at the Department of Agriculture it could actually lower future farm output and effectively raise taxes on the lowest-earning farm households, while delivering large gains for the richest farmers.
Siraj G. Bawa and James M. Williamson, of the Agriculture Department’s Economic Research Service, developed a model which of the tax laws effects on farm households which projects that 70 to 80 percent of the law’s benefits will flow to the top 1 percent by income.
In a session hosted by the Agriculture and Applied Economics Association Mr. Bawa said the law actually shrinks tax refunds for the lowest-earning 20 percent of farm households. The reason stems from a combination of changes in the bill, including its elimination of a tax break for domestic production.
While many farmers have cheered Trump initiatives like rescinding tighter regulations on water pollution and weakening worker safety standards his immigration enforcement policies are causing those farmers problems finding enough migrant workers to pick produce.
Canada among other nations is beginning to export goods that have long been a staple of United States exports, such as lobster.
Agriculture industry lobbyists say Trump is hearing from them about maintaining trade agreements that support the rural American economy but they aren’t sure he’s actually being persuaded as they’ve seen no action on their concerns.
A good number of the folks who read this newspaper are involved in agriculture directly or indirectly. Just because they don’t own or work on a ranch or farm doesn’t mean their business or job isn’t dependent on the agriculture industry. Back in 1985 plenty of folks in New Orleans found out they were dependent on the oil industry even though they owned restaurants, clothing stores and lumber yards.
I doubt any readers are in the top 1% who will enjoy the benefits of Trump’s tax law, they’re much more likely to be among the bottom 20% who will see a tax hike. Even those who stand to benefit from the tax law will be hurt if access to foreign markets is reduced due to Trump’s protectionist agenda.
Trump’s rhetoric during the 2016 election campaign was often tuned to rural voters whose overwhelming support helped him win the electoral college victory which put him in the White House. If things don’t work out on the farm they might want to look into a job building Trump’s wall. Of course, once it’s built they’ll be out of a job again.
Published in the Seguin Gazette, January 12, 2017
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