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Industry Update

Senate passes tax breaks for drought-stricken cattlemen

The U.S. Senate has passed tax cuts that could benefit cattle producers suffering from drought conditions, a National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) news release stated. Led by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), the bill passed 92-5 and includes a provision for extended deferment of capital gains tax from drought-related sales of livestock. The legislation, previously known as the Rancher Help Act, also provides tax credits for cattlemen who produce electricity from renewable resources. Currently, producers forced to reduce their herds due to chronically dry grazinglands are exempt from capital gains tax if they replace their herds within two years. However, as NCBA’s Jay Truitt points out, the current law isn’t helping cattle producers who suffer from long-term drought conditions.

Now, he says, the association will look to House members to include such tax code changes in its version of the tax bill.

U.S. to sign trade agreement

The United States is set to sign the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) May 28, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative reports. Ambassador Robert Zoellick will join trade ministers from Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua in Washington, D.C., to sign the agreement that is expected to provide the countries with immediate access to U.S. Prime and Choice beef. Other beef products also are expected to obtain duty-free access at the end of a 15-year transition period.

U.S.-Central America trade has grown, with U.S. exports to the region increasing 71% since 1996 and totaling $10.9 billion in 2003. Trade officials plan to eventually include the Dominican Republic in CAFTA following a period of Congressional consultation. Once the country is added to the agreement, CAFTA participants will comprise the second-largest export market in Latin America.

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