LINCOLN, Neb. – Arizona’s Senator Jeff Flake recently stepped in alpaca poop and he should be regretting it now.
It appears that when he released his recent report “Tax Rackets: Outlandish Loopholes to Lower Tax Liabilities,” he decided to use alpaca farmers as an example of waste and abuse. In his announcement, the Republican claimed “innocent alpacas” are being abused and used as a tax shelter. He pleads with his constituents to help him save alpacas.
Unfortunately, many in the survival industry see this for what it is: a hypocritical stunt to support his legislative agenda. And farmers are fighting back by accusing the senator of targeting hard working business owners, causing potential harm to an industry. Surely, the senator supports tax breaks for other businesses.
“Sen. Flake’s accusations of the abuse of alpacas is disingenuous,” said Bud Synhorst, executive director of the Alpaca Owners Association. “I am stunned that the senator would go on national television without all of the facts about the North American alpaca industry!”
Alpacas are raised in North America for their fleece, but in an interview on Fox & Friends, Senator Flake claimed the fleece industry “never developed.” In reality, alpacas are still a relatively new livestock in North America, compared to other livestock industries.
The senator did not mention that the industry has been steadily growing in North America for more than 30 years. He stated that there are currently around 150,000 alpacas in North America when, in fact, there are more than 250,000, according to the AOA.
Synhorst said U.S and Canadian alpaca business owners are striving to build the highest quality herd in the world. Existing strong genetics, scientific breeding programs for genetic advancement, a DNA tracked registry program and superior breeding facilities have already given the North American alpacas a reputation of being the best amongst international judges.
According to the AOA, fleece has been a focus of alpaca owners since the industry began in the 1980s. Many people utilize their alpaca fleece on a cottage level and still many others focused on fleece by working to breed alpacas which produce high quality, finer fleece, which is what is desired by producers. Successful alpaca owners know the traits of the best quality of fleece and their focus is breeding animals to create top quality product.
Synhorst says that as the national alpaca herd continues to grow, the industry, through marketing, will build a higher demand for their unique fleece and a variety of end products.
He said Sen. Flake dismissed the idea that an agricultural business is something that people desire and seek. Alpacas are a business venture that people make a successful living from. When compared to other livestock, they are a safe animal for children to work with as well – the entire family can get involved.
“With his family’s agriculture background, why would he launch an attack on the North American ag industry,” questions Synhorst. “The ag industry is the backbone of America.”
He also said it is a shame that during these difficult economic times, the senator cannot celebrate the fact that Americans are succeeding in a business that makes them happy.
In a statement the AOA said, “The alpaca industry is, in many cases, 100 percent American made from start to finish. In this economic environment, employees are being hired to work on the farms, creating jobs for Americans. Alpaca owners employ builders, veterinarians, farm managers, professionals who build and maintain websites, buy hay, straw, feed, tractors, donate to pay for research conducted at universities…the list goes on. The industry contributes millions of dollars through these things in addition to more than 40 alpaca shows at facilities throughout the country.”
The recent National Alpaca Show, held in Denver contributed to that community. The upcoming Alpaca Owners Association National Fleece Conference in Sacramento, Calif. will do the same.
“Sen. Flake was unprepared to talk about the tax code as it relates to the alpaca industry,” said Synhorst. “He misused the facts by stating that alpacas were singled out. In quoting section 179 deductions, Sen. Flake was attacking small businesses and their capacity to deduct equipment and software. They are treated like any other livestock including cattle, hogs and sheep.”
Business owners also receive no “special alpaca tax benefit.” They have the same deductions as any other livestock or small business owner in America. These amounts can vary by state and even local laws.
“Why would a U.S. Senator attack small business owners when his own report was unable to determine the cost of the deductions?” said Synhorst. “Senator Flake, after over 16 years in Washington, D.C., hasn’t apparently made a name for himself so he’s grasping at ways to gain attention and is attacking small business owners in the process.”
Alpaca may not be a mainstream livestock choice within American agriculture today and enjoy the recognition of traditional livestock, it is none the less federally recognized as livestock and continues to grow a national herd and develop.
Headquartered in Lincoln, Neb., the Alpaca Owners Association, Inc. is a non-profit corporation that provides the world’s largest, internationally recognized pedigree registry, alpaca show system, judge training program, and an Expected Progeny Difference program. AOA facilitates education and marketing support to current and prospective owners throughout the world.
AOA’s primary purpose is to maintain an official DNA validated genealogical registry system, administer a show system, provide education about the operation of sustainable alpaca businesses, promote alpaca ownership and related products and encourage scientific research to the benefit of the industry.