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Cattlemen: Congress should end death tax
Ohio Correspondent

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Members of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Assoc. (NCBA) are calling for farmers and ranchers from across the country to contact U.S. Senators in a plea for permanent repeal of the death tax. A vote on the issue is expected in the Senate this spring.

“Now’s the time to rally the troops for the upcoming Senate vote,” said Mike John, NCBA president and cattle producer. “We urge farmers and ranchers to pick up the phone and call their senators on Capitol Hill. Explain first-hand how the death tax has been detrimental to your family business and devastating for agriculture. A few minutes of your time can make a world of difference in Washington, D.C.”

For more than 20 years, members of NCBA have been working for full and permanent repeal of the death tax, and the upcoming Senate vote is considered a key milestone. Current law calls for the applicable exclusion amount to phase-in gradually toward full repeal in 2010. But because of a “sunset provision” in the law, all reforms expire in 2011. Therefore, the death tax will be fully reinstated (at rates of up to 55 percent) only one year after repeal.

“Right now, unless we conveniently die in the year 2010, the threat of a crushing tax on our family operations is inevitable,” said John. “For asset-rich and cash-poor agricultural operations like ours, the appraised value of our land is extremely inflated when compared to its agricultural value. We have already paid taxes on these assets two and three times over the course of a lifetime. Then suddenly, when there is a death in the family, we are forced to sell off parts of the operation or the entire ranch to pay off tax liabilities.”

In rural America, the estate tax (aka the “death tax”) is considered one of the leading causes of the breakup of multi-generation family farms and ranches according to the NCBA. Permanent repeal of the death tax is critically important to America’s family farms, ranches, small businesses and the people they employ.

“The death tax has been very destructive for generations of my family,” said Colorado rancher and NCBA member R.J. Jolly. “I’ve had a lot of experience with this tax in my life, none of it pleasant. Watching the fruits of the labors of the men and women who came before me get swallowed up by some insatiable wealth redistribution has been very difficult. If I sound a bit bitter about this one, it’s because I am.”

According to the NCBA, 78 percent of all Americans believe the death tax is unfair, and 88 percent of cattlemen surveyed say that feat of the death tax has changed the way they invest in their own business. Because 97 percent of American farms and ranches are owned and operated by families, the elimination of the death tax is an important step in stimulating the nation’s economy says the NCBA.

“Join us in this cattle call to continue our long-term fight against the death tax,” urged John. “We need ranchers like R.J. Jolly, from across the country, to illustrate the realistic consequences.”

“We were first hit when my great-grandfather died and our family basically had to buy back the ranch they had all worked very hard on for a generation,” said Jolly. “When I was only a child in 1971, my grandfather died suddenly, and we were hit with the taxes once again. Our family had to again borrow money and sell off land just to sustain the family business my father, aunt and uncles had worked to keep intact since they were little kids.”

This farm news was published in the May 10, 2006 issue of Farm World.