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Most American Farmers Will Be Hurt by the GOP Tax Bill

But the top 4 percent highest-grossing farms will do fine.

Update, Friday, December 15, 6:02 p.m: The GOP has released the final version of its tax bill. Read it here

As a candidate, Donald Trump dominated the rural vote and polled very well among farmers. Will the tax overhaul he’s pushing hard in Congress finally reward farm country for its support? 

Since taking office, Trump hasn’t exactly been a champion of farmers. He has imperiled their increasingly crucial export markets by rejecting trade deals and cracked down on the immigrants who supply the great bulk of farm labor. He even sided with massive poultry-processing companies over farmers by nixing US Department of Agriculture rules that gave farmers more legal recourse to defend themselves from unfair production contracts.

Trump’s Secretary of the US Department of Agriculture, former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, insists the tax bill that recently emerged from House and Senate negotiations will deliver for the administration’s supporters down on the farm. 
As of Friday afternoon, the final bill negotiated between House and Senate GOP lawmakers has not been made public. Voting on it is expected early next week. In the meantime, here’s what we know about how the broad outlines affect farmers. 

• Some farmers can expect a tax cut. Many farms structured as sole proprietorships, partnerships and S corporations. Such entities are now taxed at the same rate as individuals, meaning income taxes as high as 39.6 percent. According to Agri-Pulse reporter Phil Brasher, the House-Senate compromise bill will effectively lower the top tax rate of these so-called pass-through entities to 29.6 percent—a significant cut. 

• But only the largest operations. Ferd Hoefner, senior strategic advisor for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, says only farms with around $1 million in annual sales are in a high enough tax bracket to benefit from the lower rate. That amounts to about 4 percent of US farms. Hoefner adds that the tax break for the largest farms provides yet more incentives for farmers to scale up.  

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