For the Week Ending April 30, 2021

Spread the love

On Wednesday, the Biden administration released a policy proposal— “American Families Plan” —to expand benefits related to education, nutrition programs, and family tax credits by increasing or modifying several key tax provisions. Among the most prominent proposals is an increase in the top marginal income tax rate from 37 percent to 39.6 percent. Additionally, capital gains taxes for households with over $1 million in annual earnings would see their capital gains taxed at income tax rates – changing the effective rate from the current 20 percent to the proposed 39.6 percent. The administration proposes an elimination of the step-up-in-basis and levying capital gains taxes on assets when they are passed to another generation. However, Biden’s plan specifically exempts farm operations from this new capital gains tax, as long as the farm remains family owned and operated. To read the proposal’s fact sheet, click here. To read a notice from USDA regarding the proposal, click here.

The Biden administration’s “American Families Plan” includes major provisions to expand paid family and medical leave available to domestic workers. Released Wednesday, the proposal details a 10-year plan to scale up mandated paid leave to 12 weeks guaranteed to workers for reasons including personal or familial illness recovery, new childcare, and bereavement. Similar to the emergency paid leave instituted in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020 (FFCRA), workers would receive a maximum of $4,000/month, with a minimum two-thirds wage replacement rate, though it is unclear if businesses will receive the same tax rebates offered through the FFCRA. This proposal comes as national unions have increased pressure on lawmakers to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act) – a bill that would fundamentally change employer-labor relations through onerous provisions such as legalized secondary boycotts, a ban on right-to-work laws, private cause of action outside the National Labor Relations Board, and changes to joint-employer and independent contractor definitions. To read more about the PRO Act, click here. Meantime, NPPC continues to advocate for visa reform to address a significant livestock agriculture labor shortage. The issue was one of NPPC’s top priorities during its recent spring Legislative Action Conference.   

Citing ongoing ocean carrier practices which have hampered delivery of U.S. agriculture, food and forestry products to international markets, nearly 300 agriculture and forest groups, including NPPC, are urging Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg “to utilize all existing authorities to remedy the challenges experienced by U.S. agricultural exporters.” In a letter to Buttigieg this week, the groups outlined how carriers are declining to carry cargo and instead opting to return empty containers to Asia. “The situation is exacerbated by carriers’ failure to provide accurate notice to our exporters of arrival/departure and cargo loading times, and then imposing draconian financial penalties on the exporters for ‘missing’ those loading windows – a practice that the Federal Maritime Commission has found to be unreasonable,” the letter explained. “We need action now, not additional studies. We ask the Department of Transportation to assist the commission in expediting its enforcement options. Additionally, we urge the Department of Transportation to consider its existing authorities to determine how it can assist with the transportation needs of the U.S. exporters and the farmers and ranchers they serve, in overcoming the current challenges in shipping goods and products,” the letter concluded. NPPC has been actively working on resolving the issue, recently joining more than 70 groups in sending a letter to President Biden, urging the administration to address this shipping crisis. A copy of this week’s letter is available here.   

In comments submitted Thursday to USDA, NPPC highlighted the efficiency gains made by U.S. pork producers that has brought about significant greenhouse gas reductions and made the sector a global model for environmental sustainability. The agency sought public input on a climate-smart agriculture and forestry strategy to mitigate climate change. “As it considers federal environmental policies, it is critical that USDA recognize the role of science and innovative technologies in achieving efficiencies that will allow U.S. agriculture to further reduce its footprint,” NPPC wrote. “We encourage USDA to fully support and advance these efficiencies and the science behind achieving them. In doing so, we can meet U.S. and worldwide demand for nutritious pork and other meat proteins without compromising environmental objectives.” According to the Environmental Protection Agency, only 0.4% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to U.S. pork production. NPPC supports a number of efforts to increase efficiency efforts and further reduce pork producers’ climate footprint, including voluntary, incentive-based tools to maximize the sequestration of carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions. A copy of NPPC’s comments is available here. Additionally, NPPC signed onto two additional sets of comments, one by the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance, and one focused on biotechnology in agriculture. Copies of those comments are here and here

As the United States enters into climate agreements with global partners, U.S. agriculture groups told U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai this week that they are proud of their collective efforts on environmental sustainability. As NPPC and 11 other groups wrote to Tai, “As an industry, agriculture does not always get the recognition it deserves for the practices already put in place, but we continue to be committed to improving production practices to reduce our impact on the environment….Farmers have come a long way in learning how to maximize carbon sequestration—practices such as reduced tillage and precision agriculture techniques result in storing more carbon in our fields over long periods,” the letter noted. “With good information and the correct incentives, farmers will achieve even better environmental outcomes,” the letter added. A copy of the letter is available here.  

By a 52-42 vote on Tuesday, the U.S. Senate approved the nomination of Janet McCabe to be deputy Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator. She joined EPA in November 2009 as principal deputy to the assistant administrator of the Office of Air and Radiation (OAR) and served as OAR’s acting assistant administrator from July 2013 through January 2017, where she oversaw the agency’s work on important issues for pork producers, including the review and evaluation of data collected under the National Air Emissions Monitoring Study (NAEMS). Previously, she had been air director at the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. NPPC congratulates McCabe and looks forward to working with her on issues of importance to U.S. pork producers.