As many of you know, the House of Representatives recently considered its version of the 2018 Farm Bill, which unfortunately failed to gain enough votes for passage. While I do believe we will pass a Farm Bill this year, the current situation is troubling. Our agriculture producers face enough uncertainty without Washington making the situation worse.
Over the past year, I have held a Farm Bill listening tour with stops in Scottsbluff, Aurora, Broken Bow, Beatrice, South Sioux City, and at the State Fair in cooperation with the Nebraska Farm Bureau and the rest of the Nebraska congressional delegation, through which I visited with producers to hear their concerns. I have also conducted several telephone town halls, which engaged thousands of Nebraskans. The response has been clear: a strong Farm Bill is good for Nebraska and vital for the stability and continued success of our agriculture industry.
The House version of the Farm Bill is a reasonable approach, which makes its failure to be adopted even more troubling. It contains modest yet meaningful reforms to the nutrition title coupled with improvements in the agriculture programs, several of which I relayed directly to the House Agriculture Committee from Nebraska’s producers. It has become increasingly clear our current situation is the result of partisanship and other concerns not related to the agriculture debate.
Our producers deserve better than partisan posturing, especially given the current uncertainty in our agriculture markets due to trade disputes with several of our largest trading partners. Without reliable demand and fair treatment of their products in international markets, production decisions are virtually impossible to make in advance.
When extreme weather events and other unforeseen factors are added to these concerns, it is easy to see why the Farm Bill is so important to provide an adequate safety net for our producers. We have made great steps through tax reform and other achievements so far this year and we should build on them rather than taking a step backward.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which was authored by the House Ways and Means Committee, maintained full property tax deductibility for agriculture producers and businesses, interest deductibility of cattle inventories for feedlots, and protection against payroll taxes on rental income. Additionally, I worked to ensure Congress passed legislation to replicate Section 199 treatment of cooperatives under the previous tax code, which solved the “grain glitch.”
Overall, it has also been a positive year for agriculture in terms of reduced regulation. Livestock haulers received an extended exemption from electronic logging device (ELD) requirements, which I hope to make permanent through a bill I plan to introduce this month. At the same time, farmers and ranchers were permanently exempted from misguided regulations on methane from animal waste, a legislative solution I strongly supported.
Another major concern of our agricultural producers would have changed the definition of navigable waters under the Clean Water Act to allow excessive EPA regulation. These provisions, known as the Waters of the United States (WOTUS,) were halted by the Trump administration and legislation to make this delay permanent is included in the House Farm Bill.
On a further positive note, President Trump recently voiced public support for year round availability of higher ethanol blends (E15). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should move forward quickly to implement these measures, which would be beneficial for both consumers and agriculture producers alike. I have long supported this approach, which is why I introduced a bill last year requiring the EPA to make these changes.
Nebraska’s Third District produces more agricultural goods than any other district in the country. Given our economic dependence on its success, I take any new regulations, taxes, or changes to the Farm Bill which would adversely affect it very seriously. I will continue to fight burdensome regulations, support a robust Farm Bill, and work to ensure access to foreign markets for our products.