Op-Ed: Tax Extenders are Critical to Stable Rural Growth

Philip Ellis_headshotAs we approach the end of the year, minds turn toward family, Christmas, big dinners, and snow. But for many in rural America, it’s also time to wrap up the tax year and set the strategy for the year ahead. For cattle producers and farmers equipment purchases, new buildings, and other major capital expenses are logical considerations. Unfortunately, for many the tax code has looked more like a gamble than a sure bet. Key provisions like Section 179 deductions and bonus depreciation that had been extended in 2014, again have been pushed to the end of the year. Earlier this year, the House permanently extended both Section 179 and bonus depreciation, but the Senate has yet to act. Without action, Section 179 dropped back down from $500,000 to $25,000 and bonus depreciation completely disappeared for the current tax year.

If Congress fails to act in December, producers will not be able to take these provisions into account during this tax year. Congress can retroactively extend these provisions, but in the real world, we cannot retroactively make plans or purchases. These provisions are key considerations when making the decision to purchase machinery and equipment. Those capital expenditures provide the pass through growth for much of the rural economy that relies on agriculture. That is why it is so important for Congress to act to pass a multi-year extension of Section 179 and bonus depreciation in early December. Producers need access to these tools while they still may be of use this tax year, and the certainty in future years to plan without waiting until the last minute to make major financial decisions.

We understand all too well the cyclical nature of the markets and weather we live with every day. These forces are beyond our means to control. But the tax code should not be as unpredictable as the weather or the markets. There is bi-partisan support for these provisions, and these provisions provide inducements for small businesses nationwide to grow and expand. In turn, that increases economic growth in areas where it is needed most. I encourage you to join with the members of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association in talking with your members of Congress and ask them to pass a multi-year tax extender package.

By: Philip Ellis, NCBA President

The Science Doesn’t Support IARC Decision

Philip Ellis_headshotBy Philip Ellis, Wyoming Rancher, NCBA President

We learned this week that the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), has voted to tell the world that they believe processed meats are a human carcinogen. Similarly, they have decided red meat is a “probable carcinogen.” Let me be clear, this group did not conduct new research during their meeting, they simply reviewed existing evidence, including six studies submitted by the beef checkoff. That evidence had already been reviewed and weighed by the medical and scientific community. The science reviewed by IARC simply does not support their decision.

We know that there isn’t clear evidence to support IARC’s decision because the beef checkoff has commissioned independent studies on the topic for a decade. In fact, countless studies have been conducted by cancer and medical experts and they have all determined the same thing: No one food can cause or cure cancer. But that hasn’t prevented IARC from deciding otherwise.

Since IARC began meeting in 1979, these experts have reviewed more than 900 compounds, products and factors for possible correlation with cancer. To date, only one product (caprolactam, which is a chemical primarily used to create synthetic fibers like nylon) has been granted a rating of 4, which indicates it is “probably not carcinogenic to humans.” Most other factors or products that have been examined by the body, including glyphosate, aloe vera, nightshift work and sunlight have fallen into three categories: 2B “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” 2A “probably carcinogenic to humans,” or 1 “carcinogenic to humans.”

It seemed likely from the beginning that we’d find ourselves here. We knew the deck was stacked against us, so the beef industry and others have long been working on providing credible research that would support what many others outside our industry have already verified: A full, fair and unbiased examination of the entire body of research does not support a finding that red or processed meats cause cancer. This conclusion isn’t mine alone and you can evaluate the information for yourself. We’ve posted the studies reviewed by IARC on the website: factsaboutbeef.com. At NCBA, our team of experts has also been working with our state partners and other industry organizations to mount a full-scale defense of beef.

As just one example of the work we’ve done, we commissioned a study with the same body of research reviewed by IARC. Our study engaged a panel of 22 epidemiologists from the United States and abroad who were recruited by a third-party research group. Participants in the study averaged 22 years of experience and the full panel had a combined total of 475 years of experience. They were provided with a meta-analysis graph which showed data for a specific exposure and a specific human disease outcome, but the specific human disease outcome and exposure were not revealed. In other words, they plotted the results of the study findings on a graph, without telling the participants what product the studies examined. Of the 22 participants in the study, 21 (or 95 percent) said their assessment of the magnitude of the association was weak. Of the 22 epidemiologists, only 10 (or 45 percent) said there was even a possible association. Perhaps most importantly, the epidemiologists agreed that, given the evidence provided, there is not sufficient evidence to make public health recommendations.

Cancer is a complex subject and no one understands fully what causes it or how it can be prevented. Despite billions of dollars spent on research, we only know that no one food can cause or prevent cancer. We also know, thanks in part to decades of producer-funded work on the subject, that when people lead overall healthy lifestyles and maintain a healthy weight, they reduce their risks for chronic diseases, such as cancer, and our team and our state partners are hard at work on this topic to be certain that consumers and their influencers know and understand that beef should remain in their diets, regardless of what IARC might say.