Commentary: It’s time for some field work

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Farmers have thrown open the doors of the machine shed, greased up the gears and cranked up their diesels. It's farming season!

With Congress in session only a few days between now and August, this also is a good time to gear down and throttle up on agriculture's policy priorities.

Refueling immigration reform

In February, thousands participated in the #IFarmImmigration campaign to bring attention to farmers' and ranchers' labor challenges. That same month, more than 600 business organizations, including Farm Bureau, signed a letter urging House leaders to move forward with immigration reform.

Since then, the engine has idled a bit, and we can't let that happen. It's time to tell Congress to refuel immigration reform. Without a legal, stable supply of labor, farmers will continue to face labor shortages and lost crops, and the public will face the loss of economic activity from agriculture and the risk that more of their food will come from other countries.

Clean up the pile of expired tax provisions

Some in Congress are working to renew tax policies that expired last year. Congress has allowed the work of addressing these tax provisions to pile up like a stack of off-season invoices.

One of the most important tax provisions for farmers and ranchers is enhanced small business expensing, which helps them upgrade to more efficient and environmentally friendly equipment, purchase livestock and build certain farm structures. Because farmers operate on tight margins, the ability to deduct these expenses immediately can give a farmer a way to smooth out volatile fluctuations in farm income.

Congress also needs to extend tax credits for renewable energy production, donations of conservation easements, food donations to charitable groups and other tax provisions that help farmers and ranchers be productive and profitable while helping to achieve societal goals.

Field scout for regulatory threats

To keep a crop healthy, the farmer must keep an eye out for pests and anything in the field that doesn't appear to be thriving. The EPA's "Waters of the U.S." rule threatens to drain the vigor from routine conservation and farming activities. Landowners would have to secure federal permits to make ordinary changes to their cropland, build fences or other structures, or apply fertilizer or pesticides even in parts of fields that are wet only during rainstorms. EPA wants to classify these areas that shed rainfall, and features such as otherwise dry ditches, as "waters of the U.S." subject to federal regulation. Farm Bureau is asking Congress to weed out that proposal, and we commend the 231 representatives and 46 senators who have signed letters urging EPA to "Ditch the Rule."

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