Only 30 legislative days are left on the Congressional calendar until the estate tax reverts back to its pre-2001 levels. If Congress fails to act starting Jan. 1, 2011 farm estates worth $1 million will be taxed at a rate of 55%. Steve Foglesong, President of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, says if Congress does nothing they're in essence handing down a death sentence to family-owned farming and ranching operations. He says this will have serious impacts on all Americans not just those in rural communities.
It's widely believed that the estate tax disproportionately hits agriculture. Ninety-seven percent of American farms and ranches are owned and operated by families and the tax is considered one of the leading causes of the breakup of multigenerational family farms and ranches. Public Lands Council President Skye Krebs says the tax also promotes the degradation of our nation's natural resources and wildlife habitat. According to Krebs family farmers and ranchers serve as stewards of the land, air and water that make our way of life possible.
Because farm and ranch assets consist mainly of land, buildings and specialized equipment these estates may look wealthy on paper but they include few saleable assets and little liquidity to pay estate taxes. Foglesong says at the end of the day producers are simply asking for the ability to keep their farms and ranches in production and hand them down to future generations.