Efforts by U.S. senators to reform a tax provision that was newly passed into law in December may not be in the best interest of farmers or the viability of cooperatives, according to Mark Watne, North Dakota Farmers Union president.

The provision in question involves Section 199 of the tax code which applies to agricultural products that are marketed through cooperatives. It allows cooperatives to keep a tax deduction or pass it through to their farmer members.

Under the new tax code, farmers can now deduct up to 20 percent of their total sales to a cooperative to offset the loss of the previous Section 199. Private businesses get a tax benefit from a lower tax rate and a lower corporate tax.”

“It’s unfortunate in the rush to pass tax legislation that this has occurred. But if the fix is to remove Section 199 completely, that isn’t a solution,” said Watne. “As one of the most co-op minded states in the Union, this provision is important for North Dakota. It’s important for our cooperative businesses and their member owners.”

Watne said he is aware that Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) and Sen. John Thune (R-SD) are working on a solution, collaboratively.

He said some have suggested that corporate tax rates be lowered to offset the impact if Section 199 were eliminated. “A corporate rate reduction won’t benefit cooperatives or co-op members,” said Watne. “Section 199 is an important tool for farmers. Without it, tax cuts for agriculture will be ineffective.”

Farmers Union strongly supports maintaining the current provision or reinstating the original language of Section 199, Watne said. Originally passed in 2004 as a jobs creation measure, he said the section has done just that, while increasing spending on agricultural production and in local communities.