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Former Ag Secretary Talks Fiscal Cliff, Farm Bill and Estate Tax


The fiscal cliff keeps getting closer and Nebraska Senator Mike Johanns says there is a path to the budget deal even though true tax code and entitlement reform can’t happen in the next 30 days. Johanns says there is plenty of anxiety over the fiscal cliff and whether there will be any movement on the farm bill.

“If the calendar flips over then you do have a new Congress, although I do believe the Senate would be in good shape to just pass a farm bill, whether we have to do it again after the first of the year or whether we could get something done before the first of the year,” he said. “The House still does not have a farm bill that has gone across the floor and therein lies the issue. If the House would just pass whatever version it likes then it goes to conference and we could negotiate it. I think if we got to conference we could get a farm bill done.”

Johanns says when he was the Secretary of Agriculture USDA acted as a resource with a hands off attitude. He says USDA has not weighed in on whether they like the House or Senate version of the farm bill better and have stayed away from submitting their own farm bill proposal leading to more frustration.

“Farm bills are never easy to get done. I don’t care if you think you have a lot of money to spend or budget is the issue and budget is the issue now. I just think they’re always tough. You get these regional differences of opinion and that can lead to a very difficult situation but we got it done. It got bipartisan support both in the committee and in the Senate. When we passed it, it had over 60 votes so it cleared the Senate fairly easily. Here I am and the rest of the senators who pay attention are saying let’s just get a House version. Then we can go battle in conference and get a bill done, but we’re just not there yet.”

Senator Johanns (pictured right with Alan Kemper) sees the estate tax as a part of the fiscal cliff and if something doesn’t get done by the end of the year the rate moves up to 55-percent with a 1-million dollar exemption from a 35-percent rate with a 5-million dollar exemption. That tax is high on his radar and he would like fiscal cliff negotiations to include an agreement that the estate tax remains as it is now.[audio:https://www.hoosieragtoday.com//wp-content/uploads//2012/11/Johanns-on-cliff-and-farm-bill.mp3|titles=Johanns on cliff and farm bill]