Biden Outlines Priorities for Economic Recovery, Immigration Reform, and Climate Action During Congressional AddressThu, 29 Apr 2021 09:03:35 CDT
During his first joint address to Congress, President Joe Biden tonight highlighted the progress the United States has made on pandemic recovery and laid out his strategy to create additional jobs and lift more families out of poverty. The linchpin of that strategy is the American Families Plan, a comprehensive package that would invest $1.8 trillion in education, childcare, nutrition assistance, and paid leave.
A longtime advocate of strengthening the nutrition safety net, National Farmers Union (NFU) was heartened by the president’s attention to food insecurity, especially in light of the added challenges caused by the pandemic. “Though the issue of hunger has received a lot of attention over the past year, it certainly isn’t a new problem, and it won’t just disappear when the pandemic ends,” said NFU President Rob Larew. “Fortunately, we already have a safety net to catch families when money is tight – but it isn’t strong or wide enough to support everyone who needs help. President Biden’s bid to expand free school meals and summer EBT is an important step towards reinforcing our existing system so that it can accommodate all Americans experiencing food insecurity.”
To offset the cost of the plan, President Biden is proposing an array of tax reforms, including the elimination of stepped-up basis. In an overview, the White House promised that such a change would “be designed with protections so that family-owned businesses and farms will not have to pay taxes when given to heirs who continue to run the business.”
Larew indicated that he had reservations about the pay-for provisions and sought more information. “While we support many of the recommendations in the American Families Plan, we have questions about how these tax proposals will impact our farms and ranches,” he said. “The devil is in the details.”
President Biden also emphasized the necessity for immigration reform, asking Congress to offer undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship by passing his U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021. Under the bill, farm workers would be fast-tracked for naturalization and would be granted greater protections.
NFU expressed its approval of the bill when it was first released in January, saying that it balances the interests of businesses with those of workers, and has continued to promote practical, compassionate immigration policy in the intermediate months. “We’re pleased that President Biden has kept immigration reform among his top priorities,” said Larew. “It’s very clear that our farm labor system is falling short; it is not providing a steady stream of qualified workers for agricultural employers, nor is it offering necessary protections or a clear future for agricultural workers. Because the U.S. Citizenship Act seeks to meet both parties’ needs, it would go a long way towards building the farm labor system we all deserve.”
In addition to economic recovery and immigration reform, climate leadership was a focus of the address. Included on the president’s list of recommendations for action was incentivizing climate-smart agricultural practices, an approach backed by NFU and many other farm groups. “Farmers know that they can be part of the climate solution, and we’re glad to have an ally in the White House who recognizes that potential,” Larew stated. “We hope these statements of support are followed by immediate and aggressive action from both Congress and the administration to provide farmers with the tools they need to respond to this crisis.”
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