WASHINGTON — Allied groups, namely the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (N.C.B.A.), the Public Lands Council (P.L.C.) and a coalition of national organizations representing family farmers, ranchers and growers, said they have banded together in the fight for “meaningful and permanent” estate tax reform.

The estate tax temporarily zeroed out for the year 2010 on Jan. 1, but the tax will come back next year at its staggering pre-2001 levels unless Congress takes action.

“If estate taxes are allowed to be reinstated at the beginning of 2011 with only a $1 million exemption and top rate of 55%, the negative impact on our industry will be significant,” states an excerpt from a letter sent by the coalition to Senate Leadership. “We support permanently raising the exemption to no less than $5 million per person and reducing the top rate to no more than 35%. It is also imperative that the exemption be indexed to inflation, provide for spousal transfers and include the stepped-up basis.

“Family farmers and ranchers are not only the caretakers of our nation’s rural lands but they are small businesses too,” the letter continues. “The 2011 change to the estate tax law does a disservice to agriculture because we are a land-based capital intensive industry with few options for paying estate taxes when they come due. The current state of our economy, coupled with the uncertain nature of estate tax liabilities make it difficult for family-owned farm and ranches to make sound business decisions. We urge Congress to pass permanent estate tax reform now.

“We strongly support estate tax relief as outlined above, which provides the greatest relief and certainty for agriculture. We respectfully request your leadership in reforming current estate tax laws to strengthen the business climate for family farmers, ranchers and growers while ensuring agricultural businesses are passed to future generations,” the letter stated.

An agriculture exemption from the estate tax is also supported by N.C.B.A. and P.L.C. Both groups said specific agricultural relief would benefit the American public through greater food security, maintenance of open space and environmental resources, as well as the preservation of valued traditions and lifestyle. According to the U.S.D.A. Economic Research Service, farm estates are five to 20 times more likely to incur estate taxes than other estates, and it is estimated that one in 10 farm estates (farms with sales of $250,000 or more annually) are likely to owe estate taxes in 2009.