Agriculture, by its very nature, is cyclical. To say that there are "good years" and "bad years" in agriculture is almost a redundancy; it is merely a fact of life. A fact which until very recently was generally understood by the public, but actually used against farmers by the government's tax collectors.
For people engaged in most other forms of commerce, a person's income and wealth can be measured based on a single year. Not so for agriculture.
Just as the actual processes of agriculture demands a long-term view, so too does understanding the income and wealth of those engaged in the business. The "really good" years cancel out the "really" bad, as the "good" do with the "bad," finally resulting in an average.
Those of us who have grown up in or been otherwise involved with agriculture, understand that income and wealth are viewed in the long-term, over a period of years, not simply on the basis of a single harvest. A good year only corrects the books for a bad year.
But our federal government has seen fit to use the facts of agricultural life against farmers to get a few more dollars of revenue. This occurs by taxing agriculture at the extremely high-income rates in the good years because on paper the farmer made a lot of money. They leave out of the equation that the previous year may have been a disaster because of drought, flood, market fluctuations or other problems, resulting in perhaps literally no income for the farmer and his family.
A much more sensible method of taxation for those in agriculture is one which would view the appropriate level of taxation the way farming as a whole is viewed: in the long-term.
I have been a strong, long-time proponent of "income averaging." This fairer process allows those in agriculture to be taxed at a rate based on an average of several years. Several years ago, income averaging was introduced into our tax system and has been greatly beneficial to agriculture. Unfortunately, that tool was set to expire at the end of 2000.
I was pleased, however, to work on and vote for the recent $80 billion tax-cut plan. This plan does many things, but one of its best provisions is that it extends income averaging permanently. This is an unequivocal victory for those in agriculture.
While Congress and the federal government cannot control the weather, they can ensure that hard working Americans are not unfairly punished under our tax law because the nature of their business is so tied with nature's cycles.
Government should exist not to tie the hands and feet of those
working to improve their lives, but to allow people to engage
unhindered in the "pursuit of happiness."