Our Views Columns

Our Views Columns

Date: 10/11/2012

Title: Wilson Will Take on Tough Issues in Washington

By Heather Wilson, U.S. Senate candidate, New Mexico

One of New Mexico’s oldest industries is farming and ranching. It was the Indian Pueblos, Spanish settlers and 19th century homesteaders of the Southwest that created the idea of the American dream. Today, thousands of New Mexicans rely on farming and ranching for their livelihoods. But those jobs are now under siege by politicians like Congressman Heinrich who believe Washington knows what’s best for rural America.

They’re wrong.

There is nothing more important in America right now than creating jobs and growing the economy. If we want to protect New Mexico’s agriculture industry, we’re going to need Washington to work for us again. That means lowering taxes, placing a moratorium on job-killing regulations and giving farmers and ranchers more control over their land.

One of the biggest threats to New Mexico’s agriculture industry is the estate tax, or the death tax. When the owner of family-owned ranch passes away, the inheritors are hit with a tax that is often so large that they are forced to sell off farm equipment, portions of their land, parts of the operation or even the entire ranch. Congress has tried to repeal this onerous tax with the Death Tax Repeal Permanency Act, but politicians like Congressman Heinrich continue to stand in the way. In fact, Congressman Heinrich not only wants to continue the death tax, he wants to tax estates worth more than $1 million at a rate of 55 percent. Most ranches in New Mexico are worth more than $1 million, and most are land rich and cash poor. Paying the tax often means selling all or part of the ranch. I support the permanent repeal of the death tax so the next generation of farmers and ranchers won’t be saddled with debt they can’t pay.

We can’t stop there. We must also put an end to the burdensome regulations coming out of Washington if we want to save agricultural jobs. My opponent and I have very different views on this issue. I believe that we need to reduce burdensome government regulations. Congressman Heinrich, on the other hand, repeatedly supports more government red tape and having Washington control our lives. He had the opportunity to join more than two-thirds of his House colleagues in supporting the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011, a bill that would have pared down duplicative government regulations. Instead, he voted against it. In voting against this bill, he supported forcing states to divert funds from other important priorities to pay for enforcement, taking away money from mosquito control districts, increasing the risk of West Nile Virus; and forcing farmers and ranchers to face significant costs to comply with the redundant requirements. In fact, estimates are that the cost to farmers and ranchers could be as high as $50,000 per year to meet the additional reporting, recordkeeping and other requirements that are already met under existing regulations. Farmers and ranchers are also be subject to an increased risk of litigation and exorbitant fines. Violations mean fines of up to $37,500 per day per violation, not including attorney’s fees. This type of costly, over-reaching Washington control must be reversed and replaced with some common sense and simple rules.

Finally, farmers and ranchers in New Mexico are heavily impacted by high energy costs. I believe we need a balanced long-term energy policy that makes America more energy independent and keeps the cost of energy down. My opponent voted for Cap and Trade, the biggest energy tax in American history that would drive up the cost of operating farms and ranches and drive up the cost of food we produce. He also voted against the Keystone pipeline and believes that “coal is a fuel of the past.” I support an “all of the above” energy strategy that keeps the cost of energy down.

New Mexico’s farms and ranches directly employ more than 8,200 people, according to a study conducted by New Mexico State University. An additional 9,650 jobs service the cattle and sheep industries. Of the New Mexico beef producers, almost 67 percent own less than 50 head of cows, mostly small and mid-sized family ranches. Right now, there is nothing more important than getting America working again. That means low taxes, fair regulations, helping families keep their farms and ranches and getting Americans working again. As public servants, it is our duty and responsibility to protect the people of the United States.

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