Barack Obama urged to defend US farming interests

Policies that promote growth in the face of economic recession should be Barack Obama’s top priority as he prepares to take office on Tuesday (21 January), according to the American Farm Bureau Federation in Washington.

For example, the Obama-backed economic stimulus proposal should fund improvements to the nation’s infrastructure, including expanding broadband access in rural areas and upgrading inland waterways, said AFBF president Bob Stallman

The AFBF is also calling on the new administration to complete an unfinished immigration bill and to permanently abolish estate tax (death tax) for US farmers.

And, with Congress expected to revisit the issue of climate change this year, the AFBF has reaffirmed its opposition to caps on greenhouse gas emissions, while calling for an increase in the ethanol-to-gasoline blend rate to more than the current 10%.

“Our nation faces serious challenges and our leaders must deal with those,” said Mr Stallman. “In doing so, they have opportunities to put policies in place – on issues such as energy, immigration, taxes and infrastructure – to make us stronger in the long run.”

Many of these demands are likely to be on the Obama agenda anyway – but not all of them.

In his electoral campaign, Mr Obama pledged to invest over $150bn in green energy over the next ten years and aimed to secure some 60bn gallons of fuel from biofuels by 2022.

He also promised immigration reform to provide a “sustainable workforce”, and was in favour of a strong safety net to protect farmers from falling market prices.

But the incoming president also said he wanted to lower the exemption threshold for death tax, which could cost farmers with estates worth more than $7m. And he wanted to raise the level of capital gains tax for richer households to 20%.

He may also introduce a cap on greenhouse gas emissions, though these could be traded.

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