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Local Rancher Sounds Off On Fiscal Cliff

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INDIAHOMA, Okla_As the January 1st deadline draws nearer for the "Fiscal Cliff," farmers are keeping a close watch on the debate.

They are waiting to hear if the dreaded tax increases that will affect things such as the land they farm on and assets like livestock, will go into effect.

Southwest Oklahoma has suffered many setbacks due to the horrible drought over the past two years, and some worry these tax hikes would be the final nail in the coffin for many farming families.

Al Bennett, a retired agriculture professor and cattle rancher, admits that the "Fiscal Cliff" is a reality, but he's looking it calmly in the eye with the confidence that farmers have faced many challenges before, and they will weather this storm.

Bennett said, "Agriculture producers are kind of used to the Cliff. It's not unusual for the price of wheat to drop 50% over a year or two or to increase 50%, I don't think though that the Fiscal Cliff will cause anything like that."

He understands that if these tax increases go into effect it will mean taxes on things like farm land and livestock will sky rocket, but he says the state of the industry is so strong it does not have him worried.

"All in all we are in better shape than we've been in my lifetime. Commodity prices are very high. These cattle, I've sold a lot of cattle like that for 30 or 40 cents a pound and now I get a dollar a pound for them," Bennett explained.

In fact, he said the agricultural community had gotten used to the idea that they cannot look to the government for much help long before the "Fiscal Cliff" came along. 

"I'd like to see the government continue to provide a safety net, that's about all agriculture can ask," Bennett said.

More than anything he says Mother Nature is the biggest foe, and the drought will continue to affect business more than anything, so compared to that struggle the "Fiscal Cliff" will be no sweat off his back.

"We don't necessarily relish the thought of being bankrupt or broke or having to sell resources, but it happens and farming goes on."

To avoid the "Fiscal Cliff," the National Farmers Union is urging lawmakers to pass a 5 year Farm Bill. This bill would save between 23 and 35 billion dollars. A bi-partisan version of the bill has already been passed by House and Senate Agriculture Committees, so now it is just a matter of it sticking.

Congress has until December 31st to come up with a compromise on the farming issue, which is just one of a handful of changes that are to come if we do fall off the "Fiscal Cliff."

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