Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue talked about tax reform with SiriusXM host Alex Marlow on Tuesday’s edition of Breitbart News Daily. Perdue was particularly enthusiastic about lifting the tax burden on small businesses and eliminating the “death tax” on inherited property.
Perdue explained that one aspect of the Republican tax reform plan would ease the tax burden on truckers, who are a vital component of the agricultural industry. As he put it in his official statement on the tax plan, “Anything that helps keep trucks on the road and facilitates commerce is good for the farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers of American agriculture.”
“We need to remember, these are businesses as well,” Perdue told Marlow. “They do not just provide a service. If they don’t make a profit, they don’t stay and continue their business. The simplification for truckers – many of these are small businesses, some mom-and-pop team drivers across the country, but typically they’re small businesses and very disaggregated across the country, providing a great service. People just assume those things just show up at their door, and they don’t. Somebody has to drive them there.”
“It simplifies the tax code,” he said of the Republican reform plan. “It makes it more fair. It gives the pass-thru rate for their small businesses, allows them to compete and keep more of their money. So there’s a lot to like, both from the transportation industry as well as our farming community.”
Perdue went on to describe the death tax as “one of the most distasteful taxes in the world.”
“As you know, many farmers, that’s their savings. They try to buy land. Every farmer’s goal I know is to pass that land on to their progeny, their sons and daughters. They save and they live very frugally through their life in order to pass their land – and then you get to the end of it and sometimes the farm has to be sold in order to pay the death tax,” he explained, describing repeal of the death tax as “one of the more popular provisions among the farming community.”
Perdue noted that the death tax discourages savings.
“Many people spend, spend, spend, and then have nothing at the end of their life, so they don’t pay taxes on it. The people who save frugally, the heart and soul of America who pass along situations, try to build their farms and their businesses, they’re the ones who get taxed. That’s why it’s so distasteful,” he said.
When Marlow asked why the death tax has persisted for so long despite its unfairness, Perdue said he had no good answer, other than its political importance to Democrats. He hoped their objections would finally be overcome to put an end to the tax by passing the Republican reform bill.
Perdue said Democrats have a “philosophy of punishing success.”
“They think successful people should be punished by the tax burden,” he charged. “These are the job creators of America. That’s what strived our economy for many years. And yet, they’re the ones that pass the burden, if you see the percentages there. I believe this tax reform package goes a long way in rectifying, and balancing, and simplifying that whole effort.”
“Governments need money to run. We know that. But it doesn’t need more than it needs, either,” he observed.
Perdue said he loves working with farm families, who he described as a “the heart and soul” of the nation, “hard-working American dreamers that really have created this country.”
“Many of us have come from farm stock, sometimes now three or four generations away,” he noted. “They’re the ones that came back and sacrificed and then built this great nation.”
“The good news is, we’ve got a lot of things to be thankful for,” he said. “We’ve had a great crop again, but unfortunately great crops mean lower prices, so that means we’ve got to sell more of our agricultural products across the world. There’s a hungry world out there that needs them.”
“We’ve just got to get rid of these trade restrictions that other countries have. They’re jealous of our productivity, and sometimes they have protectionist schemes in their trade that we’re trying to eliminate. Trade is a big issue. Regulation, obviously – the Trump administration has gone a long way in deregulating this environment. We’ve got a long way to go,” he said.
“We hope to see modernization in the NAFTA agreements, obviously,” Perdue continued. “Overall, this has been favorable to agriculture, where it has not been favorable to manufacturing in some places.”
“The American agricultural producer has been so productive that we’re blessed to be able to grow more than we can consume,” he noted. “Twenty cents out of every dollar of American farm produce has to be sold to people around the world. The good news about it: food is one of those staples that people need each and every day. We’re very proud to be able to help feed the world.”
Marlow invited Secretary Perdue to share something about his office that listeners might not know.
“I’d love to,” he replied happily. “This job is broad and vast, deep and wide – much more than I even imagined when I came here. It does everything from the U.S. Forest Service and forest fire protection – we had a huge fire season this year because we couldn’t do forest management based on litigation and other things that make common sense.”
“We have environmentalists that, sometimes the community will determine a plan over harvests and thinning and cutting out underbrush, which is just fire tinder there in the forest. And yet, when we put a plan to help to manage that forest and make it healthy again, we’re sued many times by people outside the area – from New York, or Austin, or wherever, San Francisco. This sometimes can last three to five years. All the while, the fire season is getting worse because we can’t manage the forest,” he elaborated.
Perdue also talked about managing the food nutrition program, also known as SNAP.
“Obviously the hurricanes, people needed food. I was very proud of our organization and our agency for getting food to people in Puerto Rico, Key West and other parts of Florida, as well as Houston and Texas, and reaching out in that way,” he said.
“We do believe that able-bodied adults ought to be working, and not participating long-term in this program,” he added. “It was meant to be a temporary program. So we’ll see some changes there as well.”
“You’ve got other farm programs, the farm safety net, crop insurance is a huge component of that. You’ve got agricultural research service and working at the colleges and the universities, and the land-grant universities across the country, in delivering top-rate research and education to our farming community. We’ve got other aspects. It’s a very broad agency, and there’s a lot of research and a lot of help in technology,” he said.
“We’ve got a very robust website that defines all these agencies and their missions. Natural resources and conservation is a huge part of that, the conservation resource planning that helps farmers have clean water, and make sure we reduce runoff, those kinds of things. The website, USDA.gov, is probably the best source for people who can check in and see exactly what we do,” Perdue recommended.
“Conservation is really about stewardship,” he reflected. “I remember when my father taught me as a child, he said whether we rent it or we own it, we’re all stewards, and we need to leave it better than we found it. I believe farmers and agriculturalists and foresters are some of the best conservationists there are.”
“They want clean water. They want clean air. They want good soil. That’s what they’re hoping to perfect,” said Perdue. “Their families live on these lands, and so they’re the real conservationists. We get some hypocritical environmentalists that want to be, ‘We four and no more.’ They want to enjoy something but don’t want anyone else to enjoy it. Farmers live on the land. They care for it. They’re great stewards.”
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