State & National Issues

Kentucky Farm Bureau 2016 State Legislative Priority Issues

This year is an election year, so expect your United States Congressmen and Senators to begin making local events to meet with constituents this month.  Many will be meet-and-greets, some town hall events, Farm Bureau meetings and picnics, including a number of agricultural issues events that are being planned.  Congress adjourns for the annual August Recess and many Members will schedule activities through their respective districts. We continue to work to schedule Congressional August Recess events and will notify all county Farm Bureaus when events are confirmed in Congressional districts.  Currently 6th District Congressman Andy Barr plans to meet with constituents at a Kentucky Farm Bureau Ag Issues event on August 2, in Franklin County and 2nd District Congressman Brett Guthrie is scheduled to meet with Farm Bureau leaders in a similar event on September 16, in Hardin County.  Take every opportunity to promote Kentucky Farm Bureau priority issues at these, and other events members of Kentucky's Congressional delegation may be attending.

The following are brief discussion points for each of Kentucky Farm Bureau's 2016 National Priority Issues.  The best way to relate these issues with your congressman or senator is to personalize the issue as to how it affects you, your farming operation and your community.  Be specific, and ask for specific action.  When the opportunity presents itself, thank your Member for supporting Farm Bureau policy. Take a moment to become familiar with each issue, and if you need more information, or have questions, contact Joe Cain at 502-495-7738.

August Recess Ag Issues Topics

ENVIRONMENTAL

National Priority Issues:

  • Oppose EPA exceeding legislative authority in the implementation of the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act programs.
  • Support NRCS providing technical assistance for the development of additional water resources for irrigation and livestock use.
  • All regulations should be based on sound, peer-reviewed scientific data that can be replicated.
  • Support congressional oversight of federal agency regulatory actions to ensure rules and regulations do not exceed the intent and authority of federal law.

Following the 2012 drought, many producers are turning to irrigation to minimize any impact due to future droughts.  Some producers have the resources to utilize high-capacity wells as a source for irrigation water.  Others are looking toward development of additional water impoundments to store water from winter and spring precipitation for use during the summer cropping season when water resources may be needed.  Some states provide tax incentives to help offset costs of water resources development but increased technical assistance may be needed to engineer structures that would safely store large quantities of water for irrigation and livestock use.  Currently, USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) can provide farmers with technical support once water resources are developed, but not in the initial process of planning and development of new water resources.  NRCS must change the guidelines for approving technical assistance to allow technicians to provide assistance in developing on-farm water resources producers can utilize during times of drought.  This would include the building of surface water resources and wells.

NATIONAL FARM POLICY

National Priority Issues:

  • Federal crop insurance programs should be maintained at current levels to provide an effective safety net for agriculture.
  • Support crop insurance initiatives to maintain the integrity of crop insurance.

The Agricultural Act of 2014 (2014 Farm Bill) is important legislation that provides authorization for services and programs that impact every American and millions of people across the world.  The current farm bill will expire in 2018, and discussions have already begun on a new farm bill.  Risk management programs, such as crop insurance and the Dairy Margin Protection Plan, are designed to provide producers with the safety net to survive major natural disasters or market factors.  However, efforts continue by some members of Congress to remove significant funding from programs that could jeopardize the integrity of agriculture's safety net.  Insurance fraud continues to be a factor that threatens crop insurance availability for some sectors of the agricultural industry.  Fraud not only results in premium increases but could result in producers, counties or the entire state losing crop insurance for specific commodities. Recent indictments in other states, with a few recently announced in Kentucky, have shed light on the need to take action to prevent insurance fraud in order to maintain an effective crop insurance program for all commodities.  Encourage support for maintaining current risk management program funding and discourage reopening the current farm bill to change crop insurance.

TRADE

National Priority Issue:

  • Support fair and open multilateral trade agreements that will open new markets and expand existing markets for U.S. agricultural products.

International trade is an integral part of the modern world economy.  U.S. agricultural exports in 2014 grew to over $150 billion and now account for roughly one third of total U.S. farm income, and with the productivity and efficiency of the American farmer, exports can continue to grow.  However, it is critical that sound, multilateral international trade agreements are drafted that will help farmers compete globally on a level playing field to have access to the world's consumers, 95 percent of whom live outside our borders. Kentucky's agricultural exports total roughly $2.3 billion, with grain, tobacco and poultry being the top commodities exported.  The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) offers tremendous opportunities for Kentucky and U.S. producers to grow exports.

To obtain that access, it is imperative that we work to reduce and eliminate international barriers to trade. On that front, the U.S. is currently engaged in negotiations for the TPP and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). These agreements present opportunities for market access throughout Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. TPP, for example, would connect 12 nations that account for nearly 40% of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  Encourage support for fair and open international trade and passage of TPP.

FARM LABOR

National Priority Issues:

  • Support reform of the H-2A program to streamline the process making it more reliable, economical and simple for farmers to participate.  Reforms should include moving from Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR) to agriculture prevailing wage.
  • Support development of an effective migrant worker program to address labor needs within the livestock industry.

The H-2A program is broken. Congress has been considering a fix for the migrant labor program that would essentially simplify the process, eliminate unnecessary and burdensome rules and regulations, and make wages more competitive with the jobs being performed.  However, this process has stalled.  In addition, farmers continue to face federal program audits and administrative delays.  A consistent and dependable workforce is needed to meet the demand for food and fiber from a growing population.  Federal agencies should streamline the H-2A program and utilize electronic means to communicate, and receive, information needed to approve applications for workers.

WILDLIFE ISSUES

National Priority Issues:

  • Support a producer's right to protect livestock and property against nuisance wildlife predation.  Support the creation of a nationwide depredation order for black vultures that allows producers the ability to take problem birds without having to secure a federal permit.
  • Federal agencies should pursue alternative means to address endangered species concerns.

Black vulture depredation continues to be a major issue for livestock producers across Kentucky.  Black vultures continue to kill baby calves as they are being born, and have killed some mature cows.  Kentucky Farm Bureau received a statewide depredation permit from US Fish and Wildlife in 2015, that was renewed through March 2017 that allows Livestock Protection Sub-Permits to be issued to livestock producers enabling them to legally protect their livestock from depredation.  Support from the Congressional delegation was critical in getting this accomplished, and that effort is appreciated.  However, we need to find a long-term solution to this problem.  De-listing black vultures from federal protection under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act is one thing, but USFWS should be encouraged to continue authorization of the KYFB depredation permit.  Livestock producers need the ability to legally protect their livestock from black vulture depredation.

HEALTH CARE

National Priority Issue:

  • Support changes to current health care law that will stabilize the market, encourage competition that will reduce health care costs and increase consumer choice.

For many farm families, health insurance is their largest monthly payment.  Over the past few years the lack of competition among providers has continued to drive premiums up, with no silver bullet to fix the health insurance situation in sight.  Efforts to address health care on a national level have been unsuccessful in delivering quality health care coverage at reasonable costs to Kentuckians.  Kentucky Farm Bureau's goal remains the same - improve the health insurance market in Kentucky by seeking ways to increase competition that will improve the health care system and reduce health insurance costs.

FISCAL POLICY

National Priority Issues:

  • In order to protect the future integrity of our nation's economy it is in our best interest to address budget deficits, which erode our ability to remain fiscally stable with the goal of reaching a balanced budget.
  • Support the Section 179 small business expensing limit of $500,000, indexed for inflation and 50 percent bonus depreciation being made permanent in tax code.

What are the consequences of the rising U.S. government debt?  One measure of a country's economic health is the level of the country's debt compared to its gross domestic product (GDP), roughly a debt-to-revenue ratio.  The U.S. public debt is currently about 73 percent of GDP, well above historical levels.  Economists predict that continuing on the present path will lift this same ratio to 146 percent by 2030.  This is far above what most market watchers view as sustainable.  For reference, Greece's debt level was at 120 percent when the global market significantly boosted the interest rate at which they were willing to buy Greek debt.  This forced the European Union to step in and Greece has had to live with significant budget cutbacks and tax increases imposed by forces outside of the country.  Fifty years ago, only 5 percent of federal debt was held overseas.  Today, roughly a third of our national debt is held by those outside of our country.  China and Japan are the two largest holders of U.S. debt together holding just over $2 trillion of our more than $18 trillion federal debt.  Growing government debt impacts economic growth, and Congress needs to be encouraged to reign in federal spending.

Section 179 has been addressed by Congress with a maximum deduction of $500,000 indexed for inflation, reduced dollar for dollar when investments exceeded $2 million.  Thank Congress for taking the action to make this provision permanent.