Agriculture Commissioner makes impassioned plea for farm exemptions

Local News
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You may not often think about farmers in Louisiana, or how they contribute to our economy, but you’ve probably thought about the price of food on the market shelves. 

Lawmakers are trying to make the 2017 budget numbers work with 750 million fewer dollars than last year.

They’re also asking department heads around the state to take a serious look at their budgets, tax credits, and exemptions, and tell them where cuts can be made.

The budget crisis means industries have to tighten their belts, but there are no notches left for agriculture, especially after recent floods.

With 29-thousand farms in the state, bringing in almost 13 billion dollars a year, agriculture is a huge part of Louisiana life.

Recent floods caused farmers to lose their crops all over the state, though. Corn crops are ruined, and farmers can’t replace them. Insurance is available, but farmers have to meet requirements. They’ve already lost about 200 dollars per acre because of the flood.

Commissioner of Agriculture, Mike Strain, explained why the “shared sacrifice” Governor Edwards asked for shouldn’t fall on farmers in the state, especially after the floods. Strain says “when you look at agriculture, it’s the largest industry in the state, covering 85% of the surface area of the state, and 275,000 jobs. Nowhere in the United States do we tax agriculture inputs, or the sale of raw commercial products.” Strain says for every dollar of tax levied, the state will only collect 85 to 92 cents of net tax revenue. That’s why agriculture is treated differently. The profit margin is only a few cents over what is spent to grow crops like corn, soybeans and grain.

In an era when farmers are only making a few cents over their production costs, any extra tax on feed, seed, fertilizer, or other necessary items would result in a lower profit for farmers. According to an LSU study, a tax on those items would take 119 million dollars away from farmers each year.

That study Mike Strain referenced also shows that each dollar of tax levied on agriculture inputs, results in a 2 dollar increase in food cost. People spend 8 to 10 percent of their annual income on feeding their families, so that adds up quick. Farmers will already need a record amount of credit this year because of the flooding, and many farms have already filed bankruptcy.

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