Taxes affecting only those who eat - GUEST OPINION

 

April 20, 2004

 

By Trent Loos, farmer and talk show host
 
 
 
To submit a Letter to the Editor: letters@illinoisleader.com

 
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OPINION - Illinois' Governor Rod Blagojevich is currently proposing the elimination of the sales tax exemption for farmers. The net result to the Illinois budget is reportedly an addition of $29 million.

Most every segment of the Illinois agriculture community has publicly stated opposition to this initiative. The fear of chasing purchases out of state creates a major negative impact on Illinois agri-business. It appears that the current governor has taken a "So what?" stance on agriculture.

Maybe Illinois doesn't need to convert natural resources into human consumable products?

Let's take a look at what livestock agriculture means to Illinois.

The meat and dairy complex is an $18.1 billion dollar industry comprising 4.81% of the state's total economy. As of 2002, 681 businesses beyond the farm are in the meat and dairy processing sector, 59% in Chicago.

In addition, livestock in the state consume eleven percent of the corn and eight percent of the soybeans grown here. These grains, in combination with forages, are valued at $689 million annually.

A typical year in Illinois crop production looks like this: Corn planting will consist of eleven million acres with values in excess of $3.5 billion. The soybean acreage is typically around 10.6 million acres with an average value of $2.5 billion.

Six hundred eighty thousand acres of winter wheat generate nearly $100 million in revenue. Grain sorghum on 80 thousand acres is worth $17 million. There is hay production on 800 thousand acres valued at over $200 million.

So what is the answer? If in fact the Illinois budget truly needs a $30 million boost, where do we get it?

I have a solution. After all, no one should be critical of a situation without providing solutions.

Let's do a little cowboy arithmetic. We will assume that three million fans will attend Cubs' games this year. In addition, two million should attend White Sox games. If that number of people can afford to spend a minimum of $28 for each ticket, a $6 tax on each ticket would not even be noticed. The $28 plus ticket price would not include the cost of each $5 beer, popcorn, hot dog, etc.

So what is six more measly dollars? Before you know it, the $30 million needed will be generated and everybody will be happy.

But why would any state want to generate revenue from the chosen few who are so fortunate as to be able to afford to go to a baseball game? After all, there are twelve million people in the state of Illinois.

The Governor has repeatedly stated that his "anti-ag" tax will only affect one percent of the residents in the state -- those being farm families.

Why should 1500 Illinois farm families be expected to carry the burden of this tax base?

It seems we have such a disconnect at all levels about food production. We have been living in an era where oil is the global currency. There can be little doubt that the currency of the future is food.

Why do elected officials continue to overlook the fact that if we add a penny tax here and a nickel there, food production will follow the same trend that every other natural resource?

I do not want to live in a country that relies on imported food to feed 290 million people each day. Food production is a means of national security. Illinois has a reputation for having an abundance of natural resources that, in combination with human intelligence, makes it one of the most envious states in the nation when it comes to food production.

Why would we do anything to risk losing a position that has been earned through generations of hard work and dedication?

Government bureaucrats want to shove unnecessary cost regulations and compliance down our throats because farmers are only two percent of the state's population.

Someday they will realize that tax increases like this actually affect every person in the state of Illinois that consumes food. That means everyone, doesn't it?

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Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of daily radio show Loos Tales and founder of Faces of Agriculture, non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.FacesOfAg.com or email Trent at trent@loostales.com

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