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Senate vote on death tax relief a win for NCBA members

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association applauds members of the Senate for passing death tax relief in a vote on the budget resolution April 2. The Senate voted 51 to 48 to pass an amendment sponsored by Senators Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Jon Kyl of Arizona.

"This is a huge victory for America's farmers and ranchers," said Gary Voogt, NCBA president and rancher from Marne, Mich. "Nearly half of NCBA's members have operations that have been in their families for more than one generation, and they should have the right and the ability to pass these operations on to their children and grandchildren."

The Lincoln-Kyl amendment would raise the death tax exemption to $5 million per individual and $10 million per couple, indexed for inflation. Under this amendment, the maximum tax rate is reduced to 35 percent. Currently, estates valued at more than $3.5 million, or $7 million for a couple, are taxed at a 45 percent rate. President Obama has proposed freezing it at this level so it can be dealt with at a later date. But, if Congress doesn't act to freeze or reduce the estate tax in 2011, it will revert to a staggering 55 percent tax on estates worth only $1 million or more.

"This vote was a recognition of the extraordinary burden the death tax places on average Americans trying to pass on family cattle operations," said Jill Davidsaver, NCBA manager of legislative affairs. "The amendments don't have the force of law, but they are important guidelines for committees that have jurisdiction over the policies in the amendments."

"Many farmers and ranchers are what we call 'land rich and cash poor,'" explained Voogt. "This is not a tax cut for the rich. Cattle producers are often forced to sell off land, farm equipment, parts of the operation, or the entire ranch just to pay off liabilities under the death tax."

"This vote was a strong show of support for our producers, and we appreciate the senators who stood up for their rights." said Voogt.

The bipartisan amendment was sponsored by Senators Lincoln and Kyl, as well as Senators Ben Nelson, Chuck Grassley, Mark Pryor, Pat Roberts, Mary Landrieu, Mike Enzi, Susan Collins and John Thune.

"The majority of the U.S. Senate demonstrated that they realize the importance of reforming this tax," said Davidsaver. "It sets the stage for further action in reducing this burden on our farmers and ranchers."

"We'll continue to push for a full repeal of the estate tax, but we realize that may not be viable right now in the current political and economic climate. The Lincoln-Kyl amendment is the best option to provide relief in the meantime," Voogt stated.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association has represented America's cattle producers since 1898, preserving the heritage and strength of the industry through education and public policy. As the largest association of cattle producers, NCBA works to create new markets and increase demand for beef. Efforts are made possible through membership contributions. To join, contact NCBA at 1-866-BEEF-USA or membership@beef.org.

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