NTU Sends Memo to Senate Agriculture Committee on Key Taxpayer Considerations for the 118th Congress

To: Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, Ranking Member John Boozman, and Members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry
From: National Taxpayers Union  
Date: March 17, 2023
Subject: Key Taxpayer Considerations for the 118th Congress

  1. Introduction
On behalf of National Taxpayers Union (NTU), the nation’s oldest taxpayer advocacy organization, we write to congratulate you on the start of the 118th Congress, applaud you for your service on the Senate Agriculture Committee, and share recommendations from NTU’s experts and advocates on policy reforms under the Committee’s jurisdiction for the first session of the 118th Congress.
NTU was founded in 1969 to be the “Voice of America’s Taxpayers.” For decades, we have worked with stakeholders inside and outside of government, in Washington, D.C. and across the 50 states, to achieve favorable policy outcomes for taxpayers. We have worked with Members of both parties over the years to shape and enact multiple iterations of federal tax reform, strengthen taxpayer rights and due process, oversee the Internal Revenue Service, promote and protect the economic gains of free trade, remove red tape from America’s bureaucratic health care system, and help build an economy and federal budget that works for all the nation’s taxpayers.
As you embark on what will no doubt be a busy agenda for the Senate Agriculture Committee in the 118th Congress, we wish to offer some initial taxpayer considerations on the policies and oversight priorities the Committee should pursue in 2023 and beyond. We wish to be a productive partner for Committee Members and staff on both sides of the aisle. We welcome any feedback you may have and the opportunity to meet with you, and are at your service.
  1. 2023 NTU Policy Priorities Under the Committee’s Jurisdiction
NTU has several policy priorities for 2023 that are relevant to the Senate Committee On Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry. These include:
Trade is increasingly important to U.S. agricultural producers. Since 2000, U.S. agricultural exports have tripled. In 2021, exports generated seven times more income for farmers and ranchers than they received in direct farm subsidies. Reducing foreign trade barriers to expand exports should be a priority. So should reducing U.S. trade barriers, since our trading partners are able to use money they earn from exporting to the United States to purchase U.S. agricultural products. 
U.S. barriers often result in the imposition of retaliatory foreign barriers to U.S. agricultural exports. That’s one reason farmers and ranchers would benefit from legislation requiring the executive branch to secure congressional approval before new trade restrictions may be imposed. 
NTU is also concerned with the Biden administration’s misguided assertion that foreign countries may freely limit or even ban U.S. agricultural exports by invoking “food security,” and that these restrictions are not reviewable by the World Trade Organization or U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement dispute resolution panels. The Senate should clarify that the Biden administration’s interpretation conflicts with congressional intent. 
Sugar Barriers
NTU has long opposed the egregious sugar program. In 2022, at a time of high inflation, refined sugar cost twice as much in the United States as in other countries. Americans should be free to buy sugar from U.S. or foreign producers without interference from the federal government. 
Farm Support Programs
The Federal Crop Insurance Program, the Commodity Credit Corporation, and U.S. Department of Agriculture commodity subsidies all are in need of reform. Stricter means testing of farm subsidies would be one way to improve the farm bill. Individuals with Adjusted Gross Income above $900,000 are not currently eligible for premium subsidies, commodity payments, or conservation assistance. That cap should be lowered.   
Cryptocurrency Policy
Over the past decade, Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) both have issued substantial guidance on their respective treatments of cryptocurrencies. Unfortunately, there has not yet been clarity on the division of crypto regulatory authority between the CFTC and the SEC.  It’s far past time to bring the crypto industry out of the regulatory shadows and into a workable legal framework where it belongs. NTU believes that the Senate Banking Committee and Senate Agriculture Committee should work together to help define the rules of the road for crypto so that these companies can grow and innovate with statutory certainty, instead of under a cloud of regulatory doubt
Spending on nutrition programs accounts for the bulk of the farm bill’s costs. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) was significantly expanded during the COVID pandemic. Now the administration and Congress need to consider reforms to the program that would, for instance, rein pandemic-era excesses, expand work requirements, and ensure that all stakeholders, including Congress, have a role in future programmatic changes. While the details of SNAP benefits are important, in the long run, policies that promote a growing economy are the best tool to help low-income Americans afford food for their families.  
  1. Contact Information
Should you have any questions about the recommendations in this memo, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at njohns@ntu.org or briley@ntu.org.