WASHINGTON – On Nov. 29, 31 agricultural organizations representing family farmers and ranchers, including the national Cattlemen’s Beef Association, sent a letter to the president urging immediate, permanent and meaningful estate tax reform. If estate taxes are allowed to be reinstated at the beginning of 2011 with only a $1 million exemption and a top rate of 55%, the negative impact on the agricultural industry will be significant.

“For far too long, farmers and ranchers have faced uncertainty when it comes to planning ahead for the future of their estates,” said Steve Foglesong, NCBA president. “The president needs to force action on this or be held responsible for the ruin of many family operations and officially preventing young people from returning to the family farm.”

The organizations support permanently increasing the exemption level to no less than $5 million per persons and reducing the top rate to no more than 35%. They also noted in their letter it is “imperative” the exemption be indexed to inflation, provide for spousal transfers and include the stepped-up basis. It is inaccurate to assume this is a tax on the wealthy, Foglesong said.

“Taxing family farmers and ranchers out of business will have serious impacts on all Americans, not just in our rural communities,” he added. “This is not a tax on the ‘wealthy elite.’ The wealthy can afford accountants and estate planners to help them evade the tax. This is a death warrant for small to medium-sized family businesses. Farmers and ranchers are often forced to sell land, equipment or the even the entire ranch just to pay tax liabilities. This is money that could otherwise be reinvested to grow the family business and hand it down to future generations.”