A few weeks ago NCGA participated in a press conference with nine other agricultural organizations on the importance of reforming the estate tax. While some may not realize the importance of the number of organizations getting together, believe us when we say getting 10 organizations that represent everything from cotton to beef to milk and don’t agree on a large variety of issues together for a common cause, it’s a huge feat.
The issue of estate taxes is a key issue NCGA has been working on that really doesn’t get much exposure. I can honestly say that I didn’t quite understand the magnitude of the situation until I really started reading and listening to what farmers from across the country had to say. One farmer in particular who stuck out in my mind mentioned his farm had been in his family since 1722. To put it in perspective, that’s 54 years before the Declaration of Independence was written! If soil could talk, just imagine what stories it could tell.
But the image that stuck in my head the most was of the one painted by this farmer who had tilled the land all his life. He wasn’t a young farmer by any means but he has the hopes of handing their farm to the next generation and the next. He even has hopes of throwing one heck of a bash in 2022 to celebrate 300 years. But he also mentioned that if the estate tax was not extended, the amount his family would have to pay would be devastating to their farm.
Without action by Congress before they adjourned, estate taxes would have been reinstated at the beginning of 2011 and farmers would see only a $1 million exemption and a top rate of 55 percent. A lot of Americans would see that number and think it was astronomical. But American farmers fear for the future. When you add in land value, machinery and buildings, $1 million adds up pretty quickly.
Last week, Congress passed and the President signed legislation that will reform the estate tax for two years at a $5 million exemption and reduce the maximum tax rate to no more than 35 percent. This allows our farmers let out sigh of relief and we thank Congress for their action.
We need to keep America’s farms in the family. And when 2022 rolls around, I hope to somehow score an invite to the shin-dig in North Carolina.