EPA has declared greenhouse gasses (GHGs) a threat to public health and the environment. The announcement covers emissions from six greenhouse gases, including: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride. EPA’s announcement is in response to the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision that greenhouse gasses fit within the Clean Air Act definition of air pollutants. According to EPA, “the findings do not in and of themselves impose any emission reduction requirements, but rather allow EPA to finalize the GHG standards proposed earlier this year for new light-duty vehicles.” The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) said, “We firmly believe any regulations dealing with global warming that could negatively affect our ability to produce food and fiber for our nation and the world should come through the legislative process. While more and more questions are being raised about the scientific validity of global warming models, it is not the time to begin making sweeping policy decisions based on the projections offered by those climate models.” The American Meat Institute (AMI), stating it does not support EPA’s announcement, said, “The final rule could expose large sectors of the economy to significant corporate liability for producing products that purportedly endanger health and welfare.”

Competition in the Food System — The Farm Foundation held a conference concerning the economics of structural change and competition in U.S. agriculture and food markets. The purpose of the conference was to provide objective information and independent research on the economics of structural changes and competition in the food system for stakeholders, policy makers and regulators prior to the Department of Justice and USDA competition workshops to be held next year. The presentations are available on the Farm Foundation’s website: www.farmfoundation.org/webcontent/Food-System.

Estate Tax Passes House — The House of Representatives voted last week to extend the current estate tax indefinitely, which makes permanent the 45% tax rate for estates over $3.5 million for individuals and $7 million for couples. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) felt the legislation did not go far enough, noting: “Freezing the tax rate at its current level of 45%, not indexed for inflation, is unacceptable for families trying to keep their farm or ranch intact when a family member passes on.” The estate tax was set to expire at the end of the year. If it is not renewed, the rate goes to 55% for estates over $1 million in 2011.

President Announces Jobs Effort — With the unemployment rate currently at 10% and congressional concern growing, President Barack Obama outlined steps that he believes should be taken to help put “Americans back to work and get businesses hiring again.” Some of the items outlined by the President were:

• Zero capital gains for small businesses. A one-year elimination of the tax on capital gains for new investments in small business stock.
• Extension of enhanced expensing provisions for small businesses. Extend through 2010 the provision that allows small businesses to immediately expense up to $25,000 of qualified investment.
• Extension of Recovery Act bonus depreciation tax incentive. Extend the Recovery Act provision that accelerates the rate at which businesses can deduct the cost of capital expenditures. The House of Representatives is expected to pass a jobs bill this month. The Senate plans to address this issue in January.

P. Scott Shearer
Vice President
Bockorny Group
Washington, DC