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On to other challenges

DANIEL LOOKER 03/01/2014 @ 5:47pm Business Editor

Farmers meeting at the Commodity Classic in San Antonio, Texas, still have plenty to do after passage of a farm bill that the groups like. When the National Corn Growers Association and American Soybean Association wrapped up their resolutions Saturday afternoon, they tackled issues that are likely to be in the news a lot in the next year and beyond: federal income taxes, energy mandates, data storage and use, regulation of drones, and more.

And they weren't just sitting around holding a debate. Corn Growers President Martin Barbre of Carmi, Illinois, reported to the group that the NCGA booth at the Classic's trade show had collected "hundreds of RVO postcards," on top of some 900 at the group's banquet the night before.

RVO refers to the renewable volume obligations, the amount of biofuels that blenders must use each year under the Renewable Fuel Standard. The EPA has proposed drastic reductions for 2014, so the Corn Growers were urging farmers to sign cards to members of Congress with the message, "Don't Gut the RFS." The deadline for submitting comments to EPA has passed, but the commodity groups are trying to find more support in Congress, where about a third of the Senate has urged EPA to stick with a higher blending mandate, and only about 30 members of the House have sent the same message.

Both commodity groups are also concerned about the tax reform legislation released by Representative Dave Camp (R-MI) last week. The bill offered by the House Ways and Means Committee chairman would limit the use of cash accounting for income taxes paid by farmers and ranchers to those with income below $10 million. Because of the tax advantages, even many high-income farms and ranches that use accrual accounting still file taxes with a cash income statement.

"Keeping cash accounting was important to us," American Soybean Association president Ray Gaesser of Corning, Iowa, told Agriculture.com Saturday.

Gaesser said that even though Camp's bill seems to exempt most farmers today, he is concerned that it would eventually push most producers into using accrual accounting for tax purposes.

So the group passed a resolution that "ASA opposes any proposal to require farmers to use accrual rather than cash accounting."

"The concern was that they would lower it," Gaesser said, referring to the $10 million threshold in Camp's bill. "It was a move to keep the fox out of the henhouse altogether."

Other issues at the top of ASA's list, Gaesser said, include making sure the Federal Aviation Administration develops rules for the use of drones that won't hinder that technology on farms, and support for standardization of reporting data to the Internet cloud "so that if a farmer would like to change companies with your data, you could readily do that," Gaesser said.

Both the ASA and NCGA also want USDA to speed up approval of new genetic traits in order to deal with developing resistance to some weeds and pests.

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