Recent Op-Eds

Defending Rural America

By Sen. John Thune

October 22, 2021

Democrats in Washington have forgotten about the folks who are putting food on their dinner tables every night. Our farmers and ranchers feed the world, and instead of strengthening the agricultural economy, Democrats are proposing a multi-trillion dollar spending bill that prioritizes coastal elites ahead of rural Americans. And I am deeply concerned by what this tax-and-spending spree will mean for South Dakota producers.

Agriculture is the lifeblood for many South Dakotans. As a longtime member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, standing up for rural America is a top priority for me, which is why I have been sounding the alarm on how detrimental the Democrats’ reckless tax-and-spending spree would be for South Dakota farms and ranches. Their policies are so draconian that I’m worried the Democrats’ bill could mean the end of some family farms thanks in part to the bill’s expansion of the death tax. I’ve long opposed the death tax, primarily because I don’t think death should be a taxable event. I also believe there should be limits on how many times the government can tax the same money.

Farming and ranching operations are often cash-poor. For many farmers and ranchers, their money is often tied up in their land – not the bank. A farmer could have land that is worth a lot of money on paper, but he could still struggle to break even or make ends meet, especially in years with low commodity prices or poor yields. What’s worse is that if the same farmer were to die, the ability to pass his operation to the next generation could be hindered by an expanded death tax. If the IRS demands a substantial portion of his estate and most of his money is tied up in the land, there’s a good chance that the family will not have enough money in the bank to pay the IRS. As a result, they’ll have to start selling off land – the literal foundation of their farming operation. Without the farmland, there’s no farm.

It shouldn’t need to be said, but the government should not be in the business of shuttering family farms and family businesses. With the Democrats’ tax-and-spending spree, a lot of farmers are going to have to start worrying about whether or not they’ll be able to hand their farm on to their children or grandchildren – or whether a government tax bill will mean the end of a multi-generational family enterprise. The icing on the cake is that at the same time Democrats are planning to expand a tax that threatens family farms, they’re also planning to cut taxes for millionaires in blue states. If that’s not an example of misplaced priorities, I’m not sure what is.

I have heard from many farmers and ranchers who are worried that the Democrats’ proposed tax policies may threaten their livelihood. It’s clear that Democrats’ tax-and-spending spree is a bad deal for rural Americans – and for working families around the country. I will continue to do everything I can to protect Americans from the dangers of Democrats’ socialist fantasies, including their plan to target our nation’s agriculture producers.