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46874

Mixed Offering for Agriculture

Like most State of the-Union addresses, Tuesday’s message from President Barack Obama to Congress had only  a few comments that seem to affect farmers and ranchers directly. 

To Bob Stallman, the Texas farmer and cattleman who is president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, some of the President’s remarks were encouraging and others were worrisome.

Obama’s recent move to ease relations and trade restrictions with Cuba are supported by Farm Bureau and major commodity groups.

The president’s call for Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) was also welcome.

“That was probably the most positive thing for agriculture in his speech last night,” Stallman told Agriculture.com Wednesday.

Stallman believes Congress could act on TPA within three months, or perhaps sooner. The issue needs to be put on the agenda by the Republican leadership in Congress and Obama needs to encourage members of his party to support it, Stallman said.

TPA gives the President authority to negotiate trade agreements that Congress can approve or disapprove, but can’t amend.

Negotiations for a new Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement has the potential to further open export markets to one of this nation’s best customers, Japan, as well as other nations in Asia and South America. The Obama Administration is already negotiating the TPP but Stallman believes the progress of those talks might improve if Congress votes for TPA.

When Obama said he wanted to “close the loopholes that lead to inequality by allowing the top one percent to avoid paying taxes on their accumulated wealth,” Stallman finds the message worrisome.  Obama wants to raise capital gains taxes, which Stallman said is “of great concern for U.S. Agriculture.”

“What he’s talking about would put a really heavy tax load on U.S. farmers and ranchers when land is sold or traded,” Stallman said.

“I’m not too worried about it because I don’t think the Republican Congress is going down that path,” he said.  

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