The corn and soybean fields of my home state of Illinois are a sight many residents are familiar with. Without constant care, attention, a little luck, these fields could easily be removed from the rural landscape. Threats to the crop can come from all sides: from below with pest infestation, from above with lack of rain, and even from agents beyond our control. Farmers and researchers continually adapt to find ways of combating these threats. Using tools such as integrated pest management, modern growing techniques, and more efficient machinery, we have been successful in almost every situation we have encountered where production is concerned.
However, a threat is looming all across the Midwest and beyond. Small aircraft have become essential to researchers, growers, distributors, and businesses to connect with each other as well as connect quickly and efficiently with their customers. Ignoring this crucial tool, commercial airlines have used their loud voices in Congress to propose a bill in the Senate Commerce Committee that would likely remove their tax obligations and put them squarely on the backs of the small pilots and aircraft owners that are essential to an efficient corn industry.
The Senate bill (S. 1300) moved through the Senate Commerce Committee on May 16. The bill, if passed and enacted, will change the tried-and-true funding system to include a radical new “user fee.” Aircraft owners will pay a per flight “user fee” regardless of size and passenger load. Under this skewed logic, a small aircraft carrying three people owes the same amount in taxes as a jet carrying 300. An amendment at the time of the vote to strike user fees was narrowly defeated.
The Senate Commerce Committee has also recommended that the fuel tax on general aviation more than double, moving from $0.21 per gallon to $0.49 per gallon. While general aviation planes are left to deal with this gigantic tax hike, the fuel tax on commercial aviation would be completely eliminated, resulting in a tax break of millions of dollars for the airline CEO’s. Within the coming weeks, the Senate Finance Committee will create its own aviation funding bill and that’s why we must make sure that the major commercial airlines and their lobbyists are not successful in pushing through a “user fee” tax, which would jeopardize all the benefits general aviation gives Illinois.
The impacts of these new tax increases do not end with just the airplane pilots and owners paying more. Small airports all through Illinois serve general aviation almost exclusively. Because these airports are ignored by commercial airlines, residents who reside around these airports rely almost exclusively on these airports to connect with communities around Iowa and beyond. With the enactment of this hike, small airports will see drastic drops in air traffic into the airport and fewer planes in the hangars. As many airports close as a result of the loss of money and business, these rural communities will lose an access point that is invaluable to the success of the residents.
Because of these losses, Illinois residents who have come to rely on general aviation aircraft will see drastic shortages in the goods and services they once were able to receive. Small businesses take to the skies to connect with customers and respond quickly during a crisis, allowing the rural residents who depend on them to keep obtaining the materials they need for day-to-day life.
Midwesterners have come to realize the great benefits corn can have for the future of both our state and our nation. We have successfully fought off droughts, pests, and poor growing seasons and had bountiful harvests that have boosted our state’s economy. We cannot let this threat risk this essential crop in order to give the airlines and undeserved tax break.
Keith Bolin, President
American Corn Growers Association
Source: FERGUS FALLS DAILY JOURNAL (MN)