At the close of the 2021 session, the Connecticut General Assembly approved Governor Lamont’s proposal to impose a highway use tax on trucks, now known as HUT. At the outset of this proposal, the Connecticut Farm Bureau (CFBA) argued against its implementation and offered language to exempt agriculture-related vehicles.
Fast forward to today, Connecticut farmers, who are at the very beginning of the food supply chain, have been hit by first input costs not experienced by the agricultural industry in decades. Fertilizer accounts for about 15% of farm production costs and its price have increased 100 – 300% over the calendar year. Seed, hay, and small grain seed have increased by 32%. Crop production supplies like poly for hoop houses and plastic containers utilized by the greenhouse and nursery industries have increased up to 50%. Diesel fuel, used in farm tractors, machinery and transportation has increased 62% in the last twelve months. Supply chain disruptions and labor shortages have further affected the start of the growing season. This is all happening while the state’s fiscal situation has completely changed for the better.
Recently, the Governor and the legislature took much-needed action in pausing the gas tax for the next few months. While this action was desperately needed, Connecticut farmers are unlikely to see any benefit from this action because it does not apply to the diesel which powers most farm equipment. Meanwhile, Connecticut is expected to receive $5.38 billion over the next five years from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and yet the state is still planning to fully implement HUT in January of 2023.
CFBA recently delivered a letter signed by over 500 Connecticut farmers, farm businesses, and agricultural trade organizations requesting an agricultural exemption from the tax to the Governor and Legislative Leadership.
As the executive director of CFBA, I saw our farmers work throughout the pandemic, making food available and accessible. Local farm stores and stands were often one of the few places a family felt comfortable shopping for fresh produce. Farmers donated products to those in need, provided roadside pick-up and opened their farms for pick-your-own. Connecticut’s farmers rose to the occasion when they were needed the most.
Implementing the Highway Use Tax and making it applicable to the agriculture community in Connecticut is an unnecessary money grab at this point. The Connecticut Farm Bureau asks the General Assembly to pay it forward this session to the Connecticut farmers who kept their farms running and food on the shelves throughout the pandemic. Let’s show the Connecticut farming community how much we care about them and their important businesses in our state by exempting agriculture vehicles from this onerous tax.
Joan Nichols is the executive director of the Connecticut Farm Bureau