ALTOONA, Wis. (WEAU) -- Now that the tax reform bill has passed, many in Washington are turning their attention back to the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. And according to Bloomberg News, the threat that President Trump will pull the U.S. out of the deal is "an increasingly likely scenario." Members of the pro-trade business and agricultural industries feel the situation is getting perilous. And Republican governors and members of Congress are working to educate our trade leaders and the President about the stakes involved. They are pointing out that getting out of NAFTA would erase a lot of the recent positive growth in our GDP as well as call for big increases in farm subsidies since we would lose export markets. The urgency over the issue comes from the fact that another ministerial meeting on the talks wrapped up earlier this week with no real advancement towards an agreement. Agriculture, automobiles and textiles are the three major areas where the 3 countries are still far apart. The next round of talks will be in late January in Montreal.
When Congress approved the new tax reform bill earlier this week, the Section 199 tax deduction for cooperatives was eliminated. But Republican members of Congress feel they put a workable alternative in the bill. Section 199 allowed Cooperatives to pass along the revenue they made from farm products marketed through the cooperatives-in our area that would include dairy cooperatives as well as others. The alternative put in the new tax law lets coop members claim a new 20% deduction on payments from a farmer owned cooperative. The bill also includes tax breaks for the cooperative to help offset any additional taxes called for in the bill. The plan will hopefully keep the approximately $2 billion in revenue that coops send back to patrons each year in play.
Get ready for the California wildfires to start driving up some prices at the grocery store. The fires, which are still burning, have already destroyed over 10,000 acres of agricultural production-mainly avocados. So far, California fire and agricultural officials are reporting that just in Ventura County, the fires have destroyed over 6,600 acres of avocados, almost 1,800 acres of lemons, 542 acres of oranges as well as hundreds of acres of tangerines, walnuts, strawberries, raspberries, cut flowers and nursery crops. Officials say about 38 different crops are being affected by the fires.
It might not have been the best growing season in many parts of the country but for one Virginia farmer, things went pretty well. David Hula of Charles City, Virginia, set another corn growing record this year. Using a Pioneer variety, Hula set a new world record corn yield of 542 bushels per acre. That breaks the record he set in 2015 of 532 bushels per acre. And that 2015 record yield broke Hula's previous world record he set back in 2013.
Former Wisconsin DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp who recently left that job to take a job with the EPA in Kansas City has another new job. This past Tuesday she was given the job of running the agency's regional office in Chicago. That means she will be in charge of EPA for Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio.