Fix Emissions Reporting Law For Farmers, Says NPPC

Feb. 7, 2018, WASHINGTON, D.C. The National Pork Producers Council today asked Congress for a legislative fix to a federal emergency response law that now requires farmers to report emissions from the natural breakdown of manure to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Testifying on behalf of NPPC, Dr. Howard Hill told members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works that livestock producers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency never believed routine agricultural emissions from manure constituted the type of emergency or crisis the law was intended to address.

Last April, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected a 2008 EPA rule that exempted farmers from reporting routine farm emissions under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Emergency Planning Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA).

CERCLA is mainly used to clean hazardous waste, and it and EPCRA include provisions that require entities to report on the release of various substances over certain thresholds.

The appeals court ruling will force “tens of thousands of livestock farmers to figure out how to estimate and report their emissions,” testified Hill, a veterinarian and pork producer from Cambridge, Iowa, and past president of NPPC. (More than 100,000 livestock farmers likely will need to file emissions reports by a May 1 deadline.)

He pointed out that while the pork industry is prepared to comply with CERCLA and EPCRA, EPA, the U.S. Coast Guard – which takes the emissions reports – and state and local emergency response authorities have said they don’t want or need the information, which could interfere with their legitimate emergency functions.

Hill also told the committee that pork producers are committed to responsibly managing their animals and the manure they produce to protect water and air quality and to maximizing manure’s benefit and value as a source of nutrients for the crops they grow. He said the pork industry, which has worked cooperatively with environmental regulators at the state and federal levels, supports federal environmental policies that: give producers performance expectations that have a high probability of resulting in meaningful environmental improvements; are practical and affordable; and provide producers a realistic amount of time to adapt measures and associated systems to their operations so they can continue to be profitable and successful.

The State of the Rural Economy

Opening Statement by Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin C. Peterson

“Thank you Mr. Chairman and welcome, Secretary Perdue, back to the Agriculture Committee.

“As those of us here today are well aware, commodity prices have dropped since the farm bill was last reauthorized and milk prices are also softening. I am very concerned that if prices continue to fall, and yields decrease, we could be in for some real trouble. This is one of the reasons I would like to see a new farm bill, with an improved safety net, but with no new money it’s going to be hard to do.

“Last year, the President’s budget called for $231 billion in cuts to mandatory farm bill programs. You were not yet at USDA when the budget was released but I hope that we’ll be able to see your influence when the new budget is unveiled next week. I’m not sure anybody in the Administration really understands agriculture so we’re relying on you to be a voice of reason at the table.

“I appreciate your efforts to give us some guidance in writing a new farm bill. I hope you will work with us to write a bill that provides an adequate safety net and other tools for our farmers and ranchers. Thank you again for joining us today.”

Perdue Announces USDA’s Farm Bill and Legislative Principles for 2018

Mifflintown, PA, January 24, 2018) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Bill and Legislative Principles for 2018 during a town hall at Reinford Farms in Mifflintown, Pennsylvania.

“Since my first day as the Secretary of Agriculture, I’ve traveled to 30 states, listening to the people of American agriculture about what is working and what is not. The conversations we had and the people we came across helped us craft USDA’s Farm Bill and Legislative Principles for 2018,” said Secretary Perdue. “These principles will be used as a road map – they are our way of letting Congress know what we’ve heard from the hard-working men and women of American agriculture. While we understand it’s the legislature’s job to write the Farm Bill, USDA will be right there providing whatever counsel Congress may request or require.”

Secretary Perdue holds a town hall meeting at Reinford Farms where he rolled out USDA’s 2018 Farm Bill and Legislative Principles.

Download USDA’s 2018 Farm Bill and Legislative Principles (PDF, 416 KB)

 

USDA’s 2018 Farm Bill and Legislative Principles:

FARM PRODUCTION & CONSERVATION

  • Provide a farm safety net that helps American farmers weather times of economic stress without distorting markets or increasing shallow loss payments.
  • Promote a variety of innovative crop insurance products and changes, enabling farmers to make sound production decisions and to manage operational risk.
  • Encourage entry into farming through increased access to land and capital for young, beginning, veteran and underrepresented farmers.
  • Ensure that voluntary conservation programs balance farm productivity with conservation benefits so the most fertile and productive lands remain in production while land retired for conservation purposes favors more environmentally sensitive acres.
  • Support conservation programs that ensure cost-effective financial assistance for improved soil health, water and air quality and other natural resource benefits.

TRADE & FOREIGN AGRICULTURAL AFFAIRS

  • Improve U.S. market competitiveness by expanding investments, strengthening accountability of export promotion programs, and incentivizing stronger financial partnerships.
  • Ensure the Farm Bill is consistent with U.S. international trade laws and obligations.
  • Open foreign markets by increasing USDA expertise in scientific and technical areas to more effectively monitor foreign practices that impede U.S. agricultural exports and engage with foreign partners to address them.

FOOD, NUTRITION, AND CONSUMER SERVICES

  • Harness America’s agricultural abundance to support nutrition assistance for those truly in need.
  • Support work as the pathway to self-sufficiency, well-being, and economic mobility for individuals and families receiving supplemental nutrition assistance.
  • Strengthen the integrity and efficiency of food and nutrition programs to better serve our participants and protect American taxpayers by reducing waste, fraud and abuse through shared data, innovation, and technology modernization.
  • Encourage state and local innovations in training, case management, and program design that promote self-sufficiency and achieve long-term, stability in employment.
  • Assure the scientific integrity of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans process through greater transparency and reliance on the most robust body of scientific evidence.
  • Support nutrition policies and programs that are science based and data driven with clear and measurable outcomes for policies and programs.

MARKETING & REGULATORY PROGRAMS

  • Enhance our partnerships and the scientific tools necessary to prevent, mitigate, and where appropriate, eradicate harmful plant and animal pests and diseases impacting agriculture.
  • Safeguard our domestic food supply and protect animal health through modernization of the tools necessary to bolster biosecurity, prevention, surveillance, emergency response, and border security.
  • Protect the integrity of the USDA organic certified seal and deliver efficient, effective oversight of organic production practices to ensure organic products meet consistent standards for all producers, domestic and foreign.
  • Ensure USDA is positioned appropriately to review production technologies if scientifically required to ensure safety, while reducing regulatory burdens.
  • Foster market and growth opportunities for specialty crop growers while reducing regulatory burdens that limit their ability to be successful.

FOOD SAFETY & INSPECTION SERVICES

  • Protect public health and prevent foodborne illness by committing the necessary resources to ensure the highest standards of inspection, with the most modern tools and scientific methods available.
  • Support and enhance FSIS programs to ensure efficient regulation and the safety of meat, poultry and processed egg products, including improved coordination and clarity on execution of food safety responsibilities.
  • Continue to focus USDA resources on products and processes that pose the greatest public health risk.

RESEARCH, EDUCATION & ECONOMICS

  • Commit to a public research agenda that places the United States at the forefront of food and agriculture scientific development.
  • Develop an impact evaluation approach, including the use of industry panels, to align research priorities to invest in high priority innovation, technology, and education networks.
  • Empower public-private partnerships to leverage federal dollars, increase capacity, and investments in infrastructure for modern food and agricultural science.
  • Prioritize investments in education, training and the development of human capital to ensure a workforce capable of meeting the growing demands of food and agriculture science.
  • Develop and apply integrated advancement in technology needed to feed a growing and hungry world.

RURAL DEVELOPMENT

  • Create consistency and flexibility in programs that will foster collaboration and assist communities in creating a quality of life that attracts and retains the next generation.
  • Expand and enhance the effectiveness of tools available to further connect rural American communities, homes, farms, businesses, first responders, educational facilities, and healthcare facilities to reliable and affordable high-speed internet services.
  • Partner with states and local communities to invest in infrastructure to support rural prosperity, innovation and entrepreneurial activity.
  • Provide the resources and tools that foster greater integration among programs, partners and the rural development customer.

NATURAL RESOURCES & ENVIRONMENT

  • Make America’s forests work again through proactive cost-effective management based on data and sound science.
  • Expand Good Neighbor Authority and increase coordination with states to promote job creation and improve forest health through shared stewardship and stakeholder input.
  • Reduce litigative risk and regulatory impediments to timely environmental review, sound harvesting, fire management and habitat protection to improve forest health while providing jobs and prosperity to rural communities.
  • Offer the tools and resources that incentivize private stewardship and retention of forest land.

MANAGEMENT

  • Provide a fiscally responsible Farm Bill that reflects the Administration’s budget goals.
  • Enhance customer service and compliance by reducing regulatory burdens on USDA customers.
  • Modernize internal and external IT solutions to support the delivery of efficient, effective service to USDA customers.
  • Provide USDA full authority to responsibly manage properties and facilities under its jurisdiction.
  • Increase the effectiveness of tools and resources necessary to attract and retain a strong USDA workforce that reflects the citizens we serve.
  • Recognize the unique labor needs of agriculture and leverage USDA’s expertise to allow the Department to play an integral role in developing workforce policy to ensure farmers have access to a legal and stable workforce.
  • Grow and intensify program availability to increase opportunities for new, beginning, veteran, and underrepresented producers.

USDA Announces a Near-Record Year for Farm Loans

Infusing Rural Communities with Stronger Businesses and Sounder Agricultural Economies

Jan. 23, 2018, WASHINGTON, DC– The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) today announced another year of high activity in its farm loan programs. Hard-working farm families across the country accessed nearly $6 billion in new credit, either directly or guaranteed through commercial lenders in 2017. At year end, FSA was assisting more than 120,000 family farmers with loans totaling just over $25 billion.

“FSA loan funds have been in high demand the last few years,” said Dr. Robert Johansson, Acting Deputy Under Secretary for the Farm Production and Conservation mission area. “We provide opportunities to qualified small, beginning and underserved farmers who are unable to obtain commercial credit, to help them get started, gain access to land and grow their operations. Family farmers across America also come to us for credit when they face challenges to stay in business. We’re proud to support rural prosperity by providing credit to those who need it most.”

FSA provides a variety of loan assistance, including direct and guaranteed farm ownership loans, operating loans and even direct Microloans up to $50,000 and EZ Guarantees up to $100,000 with streamlined application processes.

More than 25,000 direct and guaranteed FSA loans went to beginning or underserved farmers and ranchers. Over 4,200 beginning farmers received direct farm ownership loans from FSA to make their first land purchase. And of the approximately 6,500 Microloans made in the last fiscal year, three-quarters (almost 4,900) went to beginning farmers, 1,000 went to women and 400 to veterans.

FSA’s direct farm loans are unique in that the agency provides technical assistance in addition to credit. Consistent with efforts to continually improve technical assistance, today FSA announced the publication of two booklets that will serve as important informational tools and resources for existing and prospective farm loan borrowers.

Your FSA Farm Loan Compass booklet was recently developed specifically for farmers and ranchers who have an existing farm loan with FSA. It provides detailed guidance outlining borrower responsibilities and the servicing options that FSA offers. It also addresses common questions borrowers may have as they navigate through loan program requirements and the financial concepts involved.

Originally published in 2012, Your Guide to FSA Farm Loans was designed for new loan customers. It provides information about the various types of farm loans available and guides new borrowers through the application process. The revised version addresses program changes and includes new loan offerings, like the popular Microloan program that was rolled out after the publication of the original Guide.

“Your FSA Farm Loan Compass” and “Your Guide to FSA Farm Loans” are available on the FSA website at www.fsa.usda.gov/dafl. Farmers and ranchers are encouraged to download and share them with others in their community who may require assistance in understanding FSA’s loans and servicing processes. For additional information about FSA farm loans, please contact your loan officer or other FSA staff at your local office. To find your local FSA office, visit http://offices.usda.gov.

President Donald J. Trump is Working to Rebuild Rural America

“Our farmers deserve a government that serves their interest and empowers them to do the hard work that they love to do so much.”  President Donald J. Trump

LAND & AGRICULTURE – Fact Sheets Issued January 8, 2018

RURAL AMERICA HAS BEEN LEFT BEHIND: President Donald J. Trump has charged the Rural Prosperity Task Force with examining the challenges facing rural America.

  • Rural employment has grown slower than employment in urban areas, and was the slowest to recover from the recession.
  • Many Americans living in rural communities continue to face barriers that prevent them from attaining the quality of life they deserve.
    • Poverty rates are disproportionately high in many rural communities.
    • Access to adequate transportation is a hindrance to many rural Americans.
    • Insufficient access to medical care means health problems can be exceptionally hard to overcome for Americans living in rural areas.
  • Too many rural Americans do not have necessary broadband access needed to engage in the modern economy.
    • According to the Federal Communications Commission, 39 percent of rural Americans, or 23 million people, lack sufficient broadband access.
    • Insufficient broadband networks in rural areas leave many Americans without access to services such as telemedicine and long distance learning.
    • High costs of deployment have kept commercial internet providers from installing equipment in rural areas.

BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS TO RURAL PROSPERITY: President Trump’s Rural Prosperity Task Force has proposed recommendations to help rural America grow and thrive.  

  • President Trump established the Rural Prosperity Task Force on April 25, 2017, to identify legislative, regulatory, and policy changes needed to help secure a prosperous future for rural America.
    • The Task Force is chaired by Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and includes local leaders and representatives from 22 Federal departments and agencies.
  • The Task Force identified more than 100 actions centering on five key areas that can help achieve a better future for rural America.
  • Connectivity for rural America: Electronic connectivity is essential for rural communities to succeed. To ensure rural American can compete, the report recommends:
    • assessing the current state and effectiveness of rural connectivity and supporting programs;
    • establishing a leadership team among the White House and various departments to ensure better access to electronic connectivity; and
    • cutting red tape to encourage investment in high-speed internet.
  • Quality of Life Improvement: In order to achieve prosperity, rural Americans must have a high quality of life. To improve quality of life, the report recommends:
    • targeting rural areas for transportation investment using current programs;
    • establishing public-private partnerships to help rural Americans complete an education; and
    • expediting infrastructure and technology investment in electric and water utilities for rural communities.
  • Support for a Rural Workforce: Every rural community needs job opportunities for its residents and rural businesses need qualified workers. To increase the availability of qualified workers, the report recommends:
    • expanding apprenticeship programs, particularly in healthcare and trade industries;
    • centralizing access to Federal job training programs and encouraging agencies to partner with the Department of Agriculture to host programs at local offices; and
    • improving the H-2A program through new policies and regulatory changes.
  • Harnessing Technological Innovation: Continued American leadership in agricultural production and productivity will require leveraging emerging technologies across American farmlands. To promote innovation, the report recommends:
    • developing best practices to better leverage big data collection and analysis for agricultural applications;
    • expediting FAA regulatory waiver approvals for low-altitude unmanned aircraft system flights in rural environments; and
    • modernizing and streamlining a science-based regulatory policy to expedite the commercialization of safe biotechnology products.
  • Rural Economic Development: By empowering rural economies, we empower America’s economy. To develop rural economies, the report recommends:
    • creating an online Rural Prosperity Portal to help facilitate investment in rural communities;
    • removing regulatory barriers to develop and access natural resources in rural areas; and
    • increasing access to capital in rural communities by identifying projects for private investment.

REBUILDING RURAL AMERICA: President Trump’s Administration will build on existing projects and efforts to support rural America. 

  • On November 6, 2017, the Department of Agriculture announced it will invest more than $200 million to help bring broadband to rural communities.
  • President Trump’s Department of Agriculture has announced it will invest $2.5 billion in electric infrastructure improvements in rural areas.
  • In fiscal year 2017, the Department of Agriculture provided more than $1 billion to help improve access to health care for rural Americans.
    • This $1 billion helped 2.5 million Americans living in rural communities in 41 States.
  • The Department of Agriculture invested more than $40 million to improve infrastructure in rural America in fiscal year 2017.
  • President Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act into law, which will provide needed tax cuts to America’s farmers.
    • Most farms are organized as pass-through businesses, which will benefit from both lower tax rates across the board and a 20 percent deduction in their taxable income.
    • The vast majority of family farms will be exempt from the estate tax.
    • Farmers will be able expense 100 percent of their capital investments, such as equipment, over the next four years.

Improvements to Crop Insurance continue in 2018

USDA Strengthens Crop Insurance Program to keep Rural Economy Viable

Washington, D.C.– Changes to the Federal crop insurance program initiated in 2017 will continue into 2018. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA) continues to improve the program, increasing its availability and effectiveness as a risk management tool while safeguarding the integrity of the program.

In 2017, RMA had a number of accomplishments in the areas of program integrity, program efficiency, expanded options, and customer service. These accomplishments include the way RMA develops new pilot programs, and makes policy changes based on stakeholder feedback.

“RMA has a responsibility to producers to provide flexible and available crop insurance,” said Robert Johansson, USDA’s Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation. “We also have a responsibility to the American taxpayer to ensure the Federal crop insurance program is actuarially sound and uses their tax dollars in an efficient and effective manner. 2017 was a great year for RMA in supporting these efforts.”

Some highlights from 2017 are:

  • Customer Service – RMA worked with Approved Insurance Providers, agents, and stakeholder groups to respond to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, as well as a number of severe wildfires and other disasters throughout the year. For example, emergency procedures were implemented to streamline the claims process, allow for flexibility, and respond to specific commodity and regional issues. More than $3.4 billion in indemnities have been paid thus far for 2017.
  • Expanded Options – RMA provided increased flexibility to producers to customize their insurance coverage to best meet their risk management needs. This flexibility is especially important for producers having both irrigated and non-irrigated farming practices within the same operation.
  • Program Efficiency – RMA revised the conservation compliance provisions of the crop insurance policies to remove the certification deadline of June 1. This revision eliminates an unnecessary burden and provides greater flexibility to producers, agents, and Approved Insurance Providers to show compliance with the conservation requirements established in the Agricultural Act of 2014.
  • Program Integrity – RMA has worked diligently to reduce the improper payment rate for the Federal crop insurance program. RMA has reduced the improper payment rate from 5.58 percent in 2014 to 1.96 percent in 2017, a decline of 65 percent. As a result, RMA received the Office of Management and Budget’s approval to remove the program from the improper payment “high-priority” program list.

Learn more about crop insurance and the modern farm safety net at www.rma.usda.gov

LAST MINUTE MOVES IN LIGHT OF THE NEW TAX LAW 

December 20, 2017, by Larry Kopsa, Kopsa Otte, CPAs & Advisors, York, NE- Congress is enacting the biggest tax reform law in thirty years, one that will make fundamental changes in the way you, your family and your business calculate your federal income tax bill, and the amount of federal tax you will pay. Since most of the changes will go into effect next year, there’s still a narrow window of time before year-end to soften or avoid the impact of crackdowns and to best position yourself for the tax breaks that may be heading your way. Here’s a quick rundown of last-minute moves you should think about making.

Lower tax rates coming. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will reduce tax rates for many taxpayers, effective for the 2018 tax year. Additionally, many businesses, including those operated as pass throughs, such as partnerships, may see their tax bills cut.

The general plan of action to take advantage of lower tax rates next year is to defer income into next year. Some possibilities follow:

  • If you run a business that renders services and operates on the cash basis, the income you earn isn’t taxed until your clients or patients pay. So if you hold off on billings until next year—or until so late in the year that no payment will likely be received this year—you will likely succeed in deferring income until next year.
  • Cash basis businesses should pay all of their bills prior to the end of the year.  If your bracket is 5% lower next year it is like you get a 5% discount on purchases in 2017.
  • If your business is on the accrual basis, deferral of income till next year is difficult but not impossible. For example, you might, with due regard to business considerations, be able to postpone completion of a last-minute job until 2018, or defer deliveries of merchandise until next year (if doing so won’t upset your customers). Taking one or more of these steps would postpone your right to payment, and the income from the job or the merchandise, until next year. Keep in mind that the rules in this area are complex and may require a tax professional’s input.
  • If your business is on the accrual basis make sure that you have recorded all of your accounts payable so that they are deducted in 2017 when you most likely will be in a higher tax bracket.
  • When taking inventory we always look for obsolete inventory so that we get them off the books to create less income.  This year be especially diligent in reviewing inventory.
  • Accrual basis business should consider declaring a bonus based on 2017 operation.  The bonus does not have to be paid until the due date of the tax return but still can be deducted in 2017.
  • The reduction or cancellation of debt generally results in taxable income to the debtor. So if you are planning to make a deal with creditors involving debt reduction, consider postponing action until January to defer any debt cancellation income into 2018.

Disappearing or reduced deductions, larger standard deduction. Beginning next year, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act suspends or reduces many popular tax deductions in exchange for a larger standard deduction. Here’s what you can do about this right now:

  • Individuals (as opposed to businesses) will only be able to claim an itemized deduction of up to $10,000 ($5,000 for a married taxpayer filing a separate return) for the total of (1) state and local property taxes; and (2) state and local income taxes. To avoid this limitation, pay the last installment of estimated state and local taxes for 2017 no later than Dec. 31, 2017, rather than on the 2018 due date. But don’t prepay in 2017 a state income tax bill that will be imposed next year – Congress says such a prepayment won’t be deductible in 2017. However, Congress only forbade prepayments for state income taxes, not property taxes, so a prepayment on or before Dec. 31, 2017, of a 2018 property tax installment is apparently OK.  But before you do this you need to make sure that you are not in alternative minimum tax (AMT) in 2017.  If you are in AMT paying property and state taxes early does not help.
  • The itemized deduction for charitable contributions won’t be chopped. But because most other itemized deductions will be eliminated in exchange for a larger standard deduction (e.g., $24,000 for joint filers), charitable contributions after 2017 may not yield a tax benefit for many because they won’t be able to itemize deductions. If you think you will fall in this category, consider accelerating some charitable giving into 2017.
  • The new law temporarily boosts itemized deductions for medical expenses. For 2017 and 2018 these expenses can be claimed as itemized deductions to the extent they exceed a floor equal to 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (AGI). Before the new law, the floor was 10% of AGI, except for 2017 it was 7.5% of AGI for age-65-or-older taxpayers. But keep in mind that next year many individuals will have to claim the standard deduction because many itemized deductions have been eliminated. If you won’t be able to itemize deductions after this year, but will be able to do so this year, consider accelerating “discretionary” medical expenses into this year. For example, before the end of the year, get new glasses or contacts, or see if you can squeeze in expensive dental work such as an implant.

Other year-end strategies. Here are some other last minute moves that can save tax dollars in view of the new tax law:

  • The new law substantially increases the alternative minimum tax (AMT) exemption amount, beginning next year. There may be steps you can take now to take advantage of that increase. For various deductions, e.g., depreciation and the investment interest expense deduction, the deduction will be curtailed if you are subject to the AMT. If the higher 2018 AMT exemption means you won’t be subject to the 2018 AMT, it may be worthwhile, via tax elections or postponed transactions, to push such deductions into 2018.
  • Like-kind exchanges are a popular way to avoid current tax on the appreciation of an asset, but after Dec. 31, 2017, such swaps will be possible only if they involve real estate that isn’t held primarily for sale. So if you are considering a like-kind swap of other types of property, do so before year-end. The new law says the old, far more liberal like-kind exchange rules will continue apply to exchanges of personal property if you either dispose of the relinquished property or acquire the replacement property on or before Dec. 31, 2017.
  • For decades, businesses have been able to deduct 50% of the cost of entertainment directly related to or associated with the active conduct of a business. For example, if you take a client to a nightclub after a business meeting, you can deduct 50% of the cost if strict substantiation requirements are met. But under the new law, for amounts paid or incurred after Dec. 31, 2017, there’s no deduction for such expenses. So if you’ve been thinking of entertaining clients and business associates, do so before year-end.
  • Under current rules, alimony payments generally are an above-the line deduction for the payor and included in the income of the payee. Under the new law, alimony payments aren’t deductible by the payor or includible in the income of the payee, generally effective for any divorce decree or separation agreement executed after 2017. So if you’re in the middle of a divorce or separation agreement, and you’ll wind up on the paying end, it would be worth your while to wrap things up before year end. On the other hand, if you’ll wind up on the receiving end, it would be worth your while to wrap things up next year.
  • The new law suspends the deduction for moving expenses after 2017 (except for certain members of the Armed Forces), and also suspends the tax-free reimbursement of employment-related moving expenses. So if you’re in the midst of a job-related move, try to incur your deductible moving expenses before year-end, or if the move is connected with a new job and you’re getting reimbursed by your new employer, press for a reimbursement to be made to you before year-end.
  • Under current law, various employee business expenses, e.g., employee home office expenses, are deductible as itemized deductions if those expenses plus certain other expenses exceed 2% of adjusted gross income. The new law suspends the deduction for employee business expenses paid after 2017. So, we should determine whether paying additional employee business expenses in 2017, that you would otherwise pay in 2018, would provide you with an additional 2017 tax benefit. Also, now would be a good time to talk to your employer about changing your compensation arrangement—for example, your employer reimbursing you for the types of employee business expenses that you have been paying yourself up to now, and lowering your salary by an amount that approximates those expenses. In most cases, such reimbursements would not be subject to tax.

Please keep in mind that I’ve described only some of the year-end moves that should be considered in light of the new tax law. If you would like more details about any aspect of how the new law may affect you, please do not hesitate to email me at lkopsa@kopsaotte.com.

Opening Plenary Statement of USTR Robert Lighthizer at the World Trade Organization’s 11th Ministerial Conference

As Delivered
Ambassador Lighthizer:

December 11, 2017, Buenos Aires, Argentina — …In the brief time I have, I would like to make a few basic points.

First, the WTO is obviously an important institution.  It does an enormous amount of good, and provides a helpful negotiating forum for Contracting Parties.

But, in our opinion, serious challenges exist.

Second, many are concerned that the WTO is losing its essential focus on negotiation and becoming a litigation-centered organization.  Too often members seem to believe they can gain concessions through lawsuits that they could never get at the negotiating table.  We have to ask ourselves whether this is good for the institution and whether the current litigation structure makes sense.

Third, we need to clarify our understanding of development within the WTO.  We cannot sustain a situation in which new rules can only apply to the few, and that others will be given a pass in the name of self-proclaimed development status.  There is something wrong, in our view, when five of the six richest countries in the world presently claim developing country status.  Indeed, we should all be troubled that so many Members appear to believe that they would be better off with exemptions to the rules.  If in the opinion of a vast majority of Members playing by current WTO rules makes it harder to achieve economic growth, then clearly serious reflection is needed.

Fourth, it is impossible to negotiate new rules when many of the current ones are not being followed.  This is why the United States is leading a discussion on the need to correct the sad performance of many Members in notifications and transparency.  Some Members are intentionally circumventing these obligations, and addressing these lapses will remain a top U.S. priority.

Fifth, the United States believes that much can and should be done at the WTO to help make markets more efficient.  We are interested in revitalizing the standing bodies to ensure they are focused on new challenges, such as chronic overcapacity and the influence of state-owned enterprises.  Further, we are working closely with many Members in committee and elsewhere to address real-world problems such as SPS barriers.

We believe that all of us are here primarily to represent our own citizens to secure rules that will best help them. As President Trump said in his U.N. speech, institutions like this function best when all sovereign nations acting in their own best interest pull together and find ways that permit us all to prosper.

Finally, the United States looks forward to working with all Members who share our goal of using the WTO to create rules that will lead to more efficient markets, more trade and greater wealth for our citizens.  Such outcomes will build public support not only for open markets, but for the WTO itself.

I’d like to end where I began and thank the Director General for all his work, and Minister Malcorra for their incredible work to produce a successful MC11.

NCBA Welcomes Updates to Beef Standards

December 6, 2017, Washington DC — NCBA President Craig Uden released the following statement in response to the notice from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that it is revising the United States Standards for Grades of Carcass Beef (beef standards):

“Today’s update to the beef standards will benefit U.S. beef producers in every segment of our industry. By basing carcass quality grades on the most current scientific data available, we will improve grading accuracy and ensure that producers are getting maximum value out of each head. We are grateful to Secretary Perdue and the staff at USDA for implementing this decision, which demonstrates their continued commitment to supporting American cattlemen and women.”

Background

Following a petition led by NCBA, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service today announced that dentition and documentation of actual age will now be used as additional methods for classifying maturity of carcasses. The full notice in the Federal Register can be found here.
Dentition is a method for measuring the age of cattle based on their teeth. Cattle with fewer than three incisors are classified as less than 30 months of age (MOA). Three or more incisors indicate cattle are more than 30 MOA.

Prior to the change, a significant portion of cattle under 30 MOA were incorrectly deemed ineligible for USDA quality grades because of limitations in the process used to assess their age. Dentition and/or documentation of actual age provides a more accurate assessment method. Ultimately this will ensure that more carcasses are eligible for USDA quality grades and allow producers to maximize the value of each head. More details can be read in NCBA’s comments on the issue here.

A beef industry working group composed of representatives from the cow-calf, feeder, and packer segments conservatively estimated that incorrect classification of carcasses cost

the industry nearly $60 million annually. Carcasses incorrectly classified were sold at an estimated discount of nearly $275 per head.

Dentition assessments have long been used in U.S. federally inspected plants, with effective USDA Food Safety Inspection Service oversight, to meet the export requirements of many U.S. trading partners.

CA Vineyard Region–Mounting Citizen Evidence of Man-Made Fires

December 1, 2017, Berkeley CA – Dr. Leuren Moret, geoscientist researcher, provides an update on what some suggest are man-made fires surrounding the California Wine Country and beyond.

90% of the Napa/Sonoma/Santa Rosa California fires are out, but 10% are still burning. There has been a catastrophic loss of grapes and vintage. It will take a long time to recover from these man-made disastrous fires.

Not only were lasers and microwave military technologies used (and filmed) to ignite houses and trees from the inside out, but the same exact technologies were documented in Portugal vineyard fires less than a year ago, in Chile in January 2017, and probably Spain 2 years ago.  Mounting citizen evidence videotaping the fires burning has been presented, as well as statements of firefighters and emergency responders, stating that the fires were ignited by directed energy from either helicopters or from space.

US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) announced that owners of damaged houses and property will not be allowed to remove the cement foundations or rebuild.  USACE would be the only agency with authorization to remove cement foundations of fire-damaged houses.