State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Farmers warily eyeing fiscal cliff

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Nov 14, 2012 12:34 AM
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Add Pennsylvania farmers to the long list of people wary about automatic spending cuts and tax increases scheduled to take effect next year unless Congress works out a deal.

At the annual meeting of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau in Dauphin County, the group’s president Carl Shaffer said he can’t imagine Congress would botch a chance to prevent such dramatic changes. He predicts there will be a compromise, “because I think if there isn’t, you know, we’re past an election but there’re other elections coming, and I don’t think that’ll be forgotten too quick,” Shaffer told reporters Tuesday morning. “I don’t think it’d be justifiable on their part by not doing something.”

Not doing something would cause the federal estate tax rate to jump by 20 percent, and the amount of land exempted from that tax to shrink, ensuring that small and large land farmers would both feel the pain, Shaffer noted. The capital gains tax would rise by five percent – onerous for farmers who have to sell cattle or timber. Shaffer said farmers also stand to lose investment incentives that allow them to deduct large equipment purchases from their taxes.

In the face of such potential losses for farmers, Shaffer is optimistic.

“I guess maybe I might be Pollyanna in that respect,” he said, “but right now I have my fingers crossed that they’ll have some common sense, get together and come up with a compromise that we can live with.”

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