Washington, July 19 — A group of farm state lawmakers proposed legislation that would give tax relief to farmers, strengthen the president's power to make trade agreements and mandate a study of the cost of agriculture rules.
The bill, introduced by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Richard Lugar of Indiana and Representative John Boehner of Ohio, would repeal the estate tax, cut capital gains taxes and let farmers put up to 20 percent of their income into tax-deferred accounts as protection against lean years.
With grain warehouses overflowing and commodities prices low, U.S. farmers are struggling. While Congress authorized $5.5 billion in emergency payments to farmers this fiscal year and another $1.6 billion after fiscal 2001 begins on Oct. 1, more needs to be done, Lugar and Boehner said.
"The point of this act is to increase the income of American farmers and ranchers," Lugar told reporters. "The name of the game in agriculture is to get the return on capital up."
Boehner and Lugar acknowledged that it's late in the congressional year, which is scheduled to end in early October, to introduce legislation, though they were hopeful about its chances.
The measure, introduced in both the House and the Senate, would give the president authority for six years to make trade deals without congressional approval, so-called fast-track authority. It would also direct the General Accounting Office, the statistics branch of Congress, to assess the cost of complying with agriculture rules and suggest cheaper alternatives.