House passes tax reform bill: The House passed a tax reform bill on Thursday by a 227-205 party line vote, with 13 Republicans opposed. “Passing this bill is the single biggest thing we can do to grow the economy, restore opportunity and help these middle-income families that are struggling,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., while celebrating the vote.
The House-passed bill reduces the top corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent, cuts the number of tax income brackets from seven to four, and limits interest deductibility to 30 percent of taxable income. Also included in the House bill is a provision ending tax breaks for private activity bonds, a key element involved in public-private partnerships in infrastructure projects. The Trump administration has said it wants to leverage those partnerships to reduce the direct cost of the president’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan.
The House and Senate must reconcile the differences between their plans if Congress is to complete tax reform by the end of the year. The Senate has yet to vote on its proposed version of a tax reform plan, which differs in several ways from the House-passed measure.
Ag groups and businesses ask 50 governors to help protect NAFTA: The NGFA joined 167 other agricultural organizations and agribusinesses in writing to all 50 governors to express concern about the potential of a withdrawal from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). “We respectfully request that you let President Trump know that you support a modernized NAFTA that maintains and enhances food and agricultural trade between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, and recognition that withdrawal from the accord would have adverse impacts,” the Nov. 14 letter stated.
President Donald Trump has threatened to invoke Article 2205 of NAFTA, which allows withdrawal from the agreement within six months after providing notice to Canada and Mexico. The NGFA and other agricultural groups told the governors that notice of withdrawal from NAFTA would result in substantial harm to the U.S. economy, particularly to the U.S. food and agriculture sector. “The adverse effects…would be abrupt and particularly severe for America’s farmers, food manufacturers, and agribusinesses,” the letter stated, noting that a notice of withdrawal would trigger an immediate response in commodity markets, as market-specific focus would turn to a scheduled return to trade-prohibitive tariff rates. “We appreciate President Trump’s initiative to modernize NAFTA with a ‘do-no-harm’ pledge to American food and agriculture, and we are committed to working constructively with the administration…(and) encourage NAFTA negotiations to continue without the threat of withdrawal.”
View the full letter, which outlines the detrimental impacts to each commodity that would begin with issuance of a notice of withdrawal from NAFTA.
TPP countries move ahead on trade deal without U.S.: The 11 countries remaining in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) recently made progress on “core elements” of a new TPP without the United States. According to reports issued after the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Trade Ministerial Meeting, about 20 provisions that were once part of TPP have been “suspended,” but no agricultural commitments appear on the list of suspended provisions.
Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., criticized the Trump administration in a statement following the meeting, saying TPP’s progress will create an incentive for American manufacturers to move production to Mexico so they can access consumers in the Asia Pacific. “This administration has spent nearly a year dithering and still lacks any serious strategy for the engagement with Asia in order to open those markets to exports of American goods and services,” Wyden said.
After a three-day summit meeting last week between Trump and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, the White House said the leaders are committed to boosting trade. Meanwhile, in a speech at APEC, Trump outlined his commitment to bilateral deals. “What we will no longer do is enter into large agreements that tie our hands, surrender our sovereignty and make meaningful enforcement practically impossible,” he said.
Administration officially delays WOTUS: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of the Army proposed Thursday to delay the effective date of the 2015 rule defining “waters of the United States” for two years.
“This amendment would give the agencies the time needed to reconsider the definition of ‘waters of the United States,'” the agencies’ announcement said. “EPA and the Army are taking this action to provide certainty and consistency to the regulated community.”
The 2015 rule, which redefined the scope of where the Clean Water Act applies, previously had an effective date of Aug. 28, 2015. Implementation of the 2015 rule is currently on hold because of the nationwide stay of the rule imposed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, but that stay may be affected by a pending Supreme Court case. The 2015 rule also is stayed in 13 states as a result of a North Dakota district court ruling.
The agencies’ proposal is separate from the two-step process they propose to take to reconsider the 2015 rule. The comment period for the Step 1 rule closed in September, and the agencies are conducting listening sessions with stakeholders as they develop a proposed Step 2 rule that would revise the definition of “waters of the United States.” EPA and the Army said they plan to take final action in early 2018.
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