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Unlikely allies support bill to exempt working farms, ranches from estate tax

A livestock ranchers group, the Public Lands Council and national environmental group Environmental Defense Fund, have sent a joint letter to Congressmen Mike Thompson, D-CA, and John Salazar, D-CO, applauding them for their leadership in introducing legislation to provide relief from the estate tax.

The bill, the Family Farm Preservation and Conservation Estate Tax Act (HR 3524), would exempt farms and ranches from the estate tax so long as the land continues in farming or ranching. The exemption lasts as long as the land stays in production agriculture, but is subject to taxation if used for or sold for other purposes. Additionally, land with conservation easements would be exempt from the estate tax.

"The Family Farm Preservation and Conservation Estate Tax Act recognizes that working farmland should not be subject to a burdensome tax that too often makes it impossible for families to continue farming and ranching on their land," says Skye Krebs, President of PLC and rancher from Ione, Ore. "This is common-sense legislation that allows America's producers to carry on the legacy of ranching in the West, without being forced to sell our open spaces for development in order to pay the death tax."

The letter notes that: "Nearly three quarters of the land in the lower 48 states of the U.S. is in private ownership, with the vast majority owned by farmers, ranchers and forest landowners. These lands are vital to both healthy ecosystems and vibrant rural communities. They provide clean water, climate benefits, food and fiber production, and wildlife habitat."

"It's impossible to separate private working lands and healthy ecosystems in the western United States," explains Dan Grossman of EDF. "Good private land stewardship preserves critical wildlife habitat and the nation's natural resources. When the estate tax forces ranchers to sell private land, the environment suffers too."

Below is an excerpt from the joint letter:

"EDF and PLC strongly support and endorse the Family Farm Preservation Estate Tax Act. We are excited about this legislation and are committed to working with you and your staff to enact the bill

"The estate tax, as currently formulated, promotes the break-up, sale and development of family-owned farms, ranch and forest lands. H.R. 3524 will remove the financial obstacles that impede the handing down of productive agricultural operations in tact to America's next generation of producers and land stewards."

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