Independent ranchers may get fair shake

USDA examines cattle market

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The fact that livestock producers are forced to sell their animals at a set price is undisputed, but now the U.S. Department of Agriculture is exploring the possibility of giving independent farmers a fair shake. A meeting has been set to examine anti-competitive impacts of captive livestock supplies on the nation's livestock marketplace.

\The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is sponsoring a forum today at the Holiday Inn DIA.

\Livestock industry officials and academic experts speaking at the forum will discuss a variety of concerns surrounding meat packing company ownership and control of a growing percentage of the nation's livestock supply. USDA Undersecretary Michael Dunn will moderate the forum.

\Captive supply refers to the practice of meat packing companies either owning their own live cattle, or controlling the cattle through a type of forward contracting arrangement. The growing percentage of captive supply has generated concern among independent livestock producers about the disintegration of open, competitive markets.

\Dave Carter, president of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, will be on the industry panel during the forum on behalf of the National Farmers Union.

\In 1996, the Western Organization of Resource Councils filed a petition with the USDA requesting implementation of a federal rule prohibiting captive supply arrangements. The USDA received more that 1,700 public comments supporting implementation of that petition in a period ending April 1997. No formal action has been taken to date.

\The Denver forum is part of an extended input process announced by Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman in July.

\In other news that may impact ranchers, the agricultural items that are tax-exempt have been clarified by the Colorado Department of Revenue. The lines have been drawn for various farm and ranch items and their status of sales tax exemption.

\"This is good news for Colorado's farmers and ranchers," said Roger Bill Mitchell, president of the Colorado Farm Bureau. "It has been a very long and involved process to first get the bill passed, then get an approved list available to the public. There will still be many questions, but were on the right track."

\Colorado farmers and ranchers have been able to take advantage of the law exempting farm equipment repair parts and maintenance from the tax since July 1, 2000. Unfortunately, there has been a great deal of confusion as to exactly what was included in the exemption. The 2000 law was an expansion of the 1999 bill that exempted farm equipment from the state sales tax.

\Under the new law, only non-registered vehicles, trailers and towables used as farm implements of husbandry are exempt. This includes feed trucks, manure spreaders and front-end loaders primarily used on farms and ranches that are not required to be registered with the Colorado Motor Vehicle Division.

\Repair parts and maintenance products that are integral to agricultural operation are also exempt from sales tax.

\Barns, corrals, feedlots, etc., are not tax exempt.

\To qualify for the tax exemptions, farmers and ranchers must fill out and sign an official affidavit for Colorado Sales Tax Exemption for Farm Equipment. While some dealers may have the affidavits on hand, it would be helpful for qualifying applicants to print the affidavit from the website, (http://www.revenue.state.co.us/fyi/html/sales75.html. and present it to the dealer. By law, if dealers have reasonable doubt that the product is exempt from the tax, they are required to collect the tax. Farmers and ranchers may then file a claim for refund from the Department of Revenue on form DR 0137.

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