Senate committee passes biodiesel tax credit and Section 179 extensions

Farm Forum

The Senate Finance Committee held a mark-up of its proposed taxed extenders package on April 3. The Chairman’s mark included two items critical to soybean farmers, including a two-year extension of the $1 per gallon biodiesel tax incentive, and a reinstatement of the pre-2014 expensing amounts for farm infrastructure and equipment under Section 179. Both issues are among the American Soybean Association’s (ASA) key policy priorities for the coming year.

The biodiesel tax credit expired on Dec. 31, 2013, and the biodiesel industry’s production has stalled in the absence of this tax credit in the past, so today’s action by the Senate Finance Committee is a welcome step toward putting the industry back on track for the next two years.

The reinstatement of Section 179 expensing at previous levels is also important. This enables farmers and other small business owners to expense investments made in new technology, equipment and infrastructure in their operations. Given the land-based and capital-intensive nature of farming, not to mention the ever-advancing technology we need to farm sustainably and competitively, this program helps us to stay on the cutting edge of our industry.

The Senate Finance Committee did not include one of the ASA priorities, which was an increase in the Inland Waterways User Fee used to finance construction and maintenance of waterways infrastructure. If the user fee increase were to be enacted, along with the WRDA legislation that is currently in Conference Committee, $350 million per year would be made available and all currently authorized inland waterways projects could be completed in the next 20 years. Efforts will continue as the package moves to the full Senate for consideration and activity begins in the House.

There is not yet a timetable for consideration of the tax extenders package by the full Senate. In addition, its prospects in the House of Representatives is also uncertain. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp has announced his intent to hold hearings on tax extenders, beginning next week. Chairman Camp has also indicated his desire to eliminate some of the tax credits while making the others permanent to eliminate the need for annual action on a tax extenders package.