Thought we’d share an open letter to the news media from Florida Farm Bureau President John Hoblick:
Like most Americans, family farmers and ranchers are affected by the current economic situation facing our nation. Unfortunately, farmers and ranchers face an added economic hardship: the federal estate taxes that come due when a family member dies.
We should all commend Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Mel Martinez for urging Congress to improve existing estate tax law to allow farms to continue operating when a family member dies. Sen. Nelson was one of only 10 Senate Democrats who voted to approve a crucial bipartisan amendment offered last week by Arkansas Democrat Blanche Lincoln and Arizona Republican Jon Kyl.
Unless Congress acts, the estate tax exemption will drop to $1 million in 2011. The resulting tax hit may force families to sell farm assets including land to pay the taxes when a family member dies. Here in Florida, buyers are likely to be developers and the farm is ultimately replaced with more intensive uses.
Compared to other sectors of the economy, federal estate taxes fall heaviest on family farms and ranches. Family operations make up 98 percent of all U.S. farms. Freezing the estate tax exemption at or below the current level is not an acceptable option for America’s farming and ranching families. It is also bad for consumers, who rely on U.S.-grown farm products to feed their families.
America’s farmers and ranchers will benefit from Sens. Martinez’s and Nelson’s leadership. So will the rest of us consumers.
Florida Farm Bureau Federation
PO Box 147030
Gainesville, FL 32614-7030