The Montana Farm Bureau is urging its Congressional Delegation to support S.1032, the Revitalizing Under-Developed Rural Areas (RURAL) Act (S.1032). The recently introduced legislation will ensure that electric cooperatives will not jeopardize their tax-exempt status when they accept government grants for activities like expanding broadband or restoring power after storms and disasters.

“Most electric cooperatives are tax-exempt organizations that must receive at least 85 percent of their income from members to maintain their tax-exempt status,” said MFBF Executive Vice President John Youngberg in letters to Senator Jon Tester, Senator Steve Daines and Congressman Greg Gianforte. He explained that the unintended consequence of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which re-characterized grants as income, is making it harder for cooperatives to meet the tax-exempt test.

“The RURAL Act ensures that we aren’t hindering development of much-needed broadband in rural Montana which is essential to modern agriculture, the farmers and ranchers who grow our food and the quality of life for rural Americans,” Youngberg said. “Montana’s farmers and ranchers embrace technology that allows their farming businesses to be more efficient, economical and environmentally responsible.”

Farmers and ranchers rely on broadband access to manage and operate successful businesses, the same as small businesses do in urban and suburban America. “Access to broadband is essential for farmers and ranchers to follow commodity markets, communicate with their customers, gain access to new markets around the world and, increasingly, to ensure regulatory compliance. We fear failure to pass the RURAL Act will hinder electric cooperatives from expanding broadband in rural areas and urge Congressional support of this Act,” Youngberg concluded.

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