Farmers have a lot on their wishlist for tax reform, should Congress ever get to it, but former Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns says many in agriculture aren’t taking advantage of a key credit already available to them. The former Nebraska governor, who led the USDA under President George W. Bush before serving a stint in the Senate, is on a mission to get farmers to use the federal R&D tax credit. That provision provides a dollar-for-dollar credit when a business tries something new in its operation, Johanns told MA.

The provision isn’t just about work done in a lab, but also any efforts by a business aimed at “improving a process,” the former secretary said, pointing to common farming activities such as selective breeding in livestock and to work being done by dairy processors, breweries and even ethanol plants to increase productivity. “It fits hand in glove with what’s going on in agriculture,” said Johanns, who added to his resume chairman of agriculture for the Houston-based tax consultancy alliantgroup. While many, if not most, farms could qualify for the credit, Johanns said only about 10 percent are taking advantage of it. “It’s just something that the ag community hasn’t put on their radar screen,” he said.

President Trump and House Republicans have stated they would maintain the R&D tax credit in any overhaul of the tax code.

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JohannsMike Johanns was the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture from 2005-2007 as well as the Governor of Nebraska from 1999-2005 and the state’s U.S. Senator from 2009-2015. As alliantgroup’s Chairman of Agriculture, Johanns brings more than 30 years of experience at virtually every level of government and a strong background in both agriculture and economic development. As the Secretary of Agriculture, he managed 18 different agencies, opened or expanded access to 40 international markets and was responsible for multiple agricultural breakthroughs as a negotiator for the Doha Development Round.