WASHINGTON, D.C. — To ensure farmers and ranchers have access to modern and safe water infrastructure systems, U.S. Sens. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, and Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, member of the Senate Finance Committee, have introduced the Water and Agriculture Tax Reform Act, which would reform outdated tax provisions hindering investment in important infrastructure advances.
Co-sponsors of the legislation include Sens. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, and Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyoming. Companion legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Ken Buck, R-Colorado, and Joe Neguse, D-Colorado.
Current law dictates that mutual ditch and irrigation companies must receive 85 percent of their income from shareholder investment to maintain their non-profit designations. Mostly comprised of farmer cooperative corporations, these companies maintain and develop water storage and delivery systems for farmland in the West.
The WATER Act would revise restrictions placed on mutual ditch and irrigation companies’ ability to raise capital to invest in infrastructure. The bill would further allow for these companies to receive other sources of income for operations and maintenance and still keep non-profit status. The legislation requires that extra revenue be used exclusively for operations and capital improvements of irrigation, ditch and water systems.
The bill is supported by the Idaho Water Users Association, Twin Falls Canal Company, Fremont Madison Irrigation District, Idaho Irrigation District and the American Farm Bureau Federation.
“The cost of maintaining and operating aging water infrastructure has skyrocketed in recent years, forcing higher price tags on Idaho’s farmers and ranchers,” said Crapo. “Existing tax law penalizes mutual ditch and irrigation companies’ investments in much-needed water infrastructure projects necessary for maintaining a thriving agriculture sector. The WATER Act would update and reduce these current burdensome restrictions.”
“Facing intense drought, farmers and ranchers in the West are relying on water infrastructure now more than ever to keep their land productive,” said Bennet. “Our bipartisan legislation helps ensure ditch and irrigation companies in Colorado and across the West are able to keep critical water infrastructure in good, working condition.”
“Mutual irrigation, reservoir, and water companies play a critical role in the agriculture industry in Colorado and throughout the nation,” said Buck. “Farmers and ranchers should be able to maintain and develop their water infrastructure without being penalized for it. The WATER Act will replace a burdensome restriction with a beneficial solution that will support America’s rural communities.”
“This legislation will cut red tape and is a commonsense measure to support Colorado ranchers and farmers,” Neguse said.