Helping lawmakers, especially new members of Congress, get a good handle on the overall importance of farming and ranching is the first step to securing support for repealing the estate tax, Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.) recently told several members of the Family Business Estate Tax Coalition. The American Farm Bureau Federation is a member of the coalition.
Smith, a seventh-generation Missouri family farm owner who serves on the House Ways and Means Committee and the Budget Committee, along with Rep. Sandford Bishop (D-Ga.), earlier this year introduced the Death Tax Repeal Act (H.R. 218).
“There’s a lot of opportunity to provide basic education about agriculture” to members of Congress who may not know a lot about farming, Smith said, noting that getting additional support for estate tax repeal legislation, especially from Democratic members, would take time.
“A lot of great things don’t happen immediately. We can get there, slow and steady,” he said optimistically.
Lawmakers who haven’t been exposed much to agriculture have a hard time understanding that the estate tax can really hurt family farmers, who are far from wealthy.
“Many farmers are truly land-rich, but cash poor,” Smith said, citing a cotton farmer in the boot heel of Missouri who doesn’t need to farm very many acres to go over the estate tax exemption, especially with a cotton picker costing around $600,000.
The 50-plus members of the Family Business Estate Tax Coalition in February sent a letter to Smith, Bishop and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who introduced the Death Tax Repeal Act of 2019 (S. 215) in the Senate, thanking them for their efforts to eliminate the estate tax.