Heeding Heitkamp’s Call, IRS Commissioner Notifies ND Ranchers of Drought Relief Eligibility

U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) today announced that Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner John Koskinen heeded her call to alert North Dakota ranchers who have been hit hard by the drought that they can defer capital gains tax payments for a four-year period on the sale of their cattle. If a rancher replenishes the cattle that were sold before the four-year extension, the capital gains payments are due.

During her meeting last month with over 100 ranchers in Bowman, Heitkamp unveiled her push to the IRS Commissioner that would help provide needed relief to ranchers across the state who have been forced to sell their livestock much earlier and at lower prices than usual. The financial losses from paying top-dollar for hay trucked in from other states, to accessing water and other forage, as well as selling off heads of cattle – and even entire herds – much earlier than they can afford has become too much for many North Dakota ranchers. To help make sure ranchers across the state can weather the drought, Heitkamp pressed Koskinen to provide advanced notice of eligibility and to work with local, state and federal officials to educate the public about this important tax provision that helped save the livelihoods of many ranchers during the 1980s drought. By deferring payments, ranchers will have the time they need to replenish their herd and come back stronger than ever.

“Rising temperatures, grassfires, paired with the costs of hay, water, and forage have pushed tough North Dakota ranchers to the brink – forcing many to make tough decisions about selling cattle they own because the cost of keeping their herd is just too high,” said Heitkamp. “When I sat down with over 100 ranchers in Bowman, these are the stories I heard. No rancher should go under because of lasting conditions like this impenetrable drought – they need practical solutions to make it through and come back stronger. It’s a good step that IRS Commissioner Koskinen agreed – promising me that he would let North Dakota ranchers know they’re eligible for capital gains tax deferrals. We must keep working hand-in-hand with ranchers in Bowman and across the state so we can activate commonsense policies, like this one that helped save family ranches in the 80s.”

A copy of IRS Commissioner Koskinen’s letter to Heitkamp is available at her website.

For months, Heitkamp has been working toward an all-of-the-above approach to making sure North Dakota farmers and ranchers can weather the drought, as she seeks to implement lasting solutions that will protect them during extreme weather over the long term.

Just two weeks ago – following her outreach to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Sonny Perdue – USDA announced it would provide more staff at Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices around North Dakota to help farmers and ranchers get immediate drought assistance. That same week, the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations heeded her request to expand and strengthen the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP) to assist North Dakota farmers and ranchers with hauling livestock and hay as well as water to drought-stricken areas. The Committee included her provision in the Agriculture Appropriations bill that was passed out of the full Committee and is now up for consideration by the full Senate.

Last month, USDA leaders opened up CRP lands for haying within 150 miles of severe drought areas. That news came after Heitkamp’s months-long push with the federal delegation when they successfully pressed USDA leaders to take bold action to help drought-impacted farmers and ranchers in North Dakota by designating agricultural disasters in counties in the state that have been severely impacted by drought. That designation opened up FSA disaster relief programs that Heitkamp pushed for in the Farm Bill, including emergency loans, to North Dakota farmers and ranchers. Producers in eligible counties have eight months to apply for emergency loans.

In June, Heitkamp launched her drought resources webpage to make sure farmers and ranchers can access local, state, and federal tools and assistance. These resources include haying and grazing options, tax information, mental health services, and resource eligibility requirements.