A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to spend time touring farms throughout North Carolina. Since agriculture is the top industry in our district and state, I wanted to gain a deeper understanding of how Washington’s policies are affecting the economic growth and future outlook of the agriculture community. Every farmer I met with on the Farm Tour said the biggest concern is keeping future generations on the farm and being able to pass down the benefits of their years of labor.
Washington’s overregulation is crushing the profitability of farming and driving farmers out of the industry. J.D. Alexander, president of the National Cattleman’s Beef Association summed the problem up best: “If nothing is done, the estate [death] tax could be the ruin of rural America and small communities.”
The “death tax” (also known as the estate tax) is a tax imposed on the transfer of the taxable estate of a deceased person. Since 2001, the death tax has been paid by farmers who own an estate greater than $1 million with rates fluctuating from 55-35 percent and exemption rates fluctuating from $1 million to $5 million. While Congress has taken small steps to alleviate this tax burden on farmers and small businesses, death tax rates are currently locked in at 40 percent with an exemption of $5.25 million.
In such tough economic times, we should be finding ways to let people keep more of their hard-earned money. Our citizens work hard, save, invest, and want to leave their kids and grandkids with more opportunities and a better life. The death tax discourages these very values and punishes hardworking Americans, particularly family farms, which tend to be land-rich, but cash-poor. When it comes to running a farm, we need fewer rules and mandates from Washington bureaucrats, not more. It makes no sense for the federal government to hinder the very entrepreneurs who make economic growth possible.
Embarking on the Farm Tour and hearing firsthand from our farmers helped me understand the urgency of the problem at hand, so last week I introduced the Farmers Against Crippling Taxes (FACT) Act, which will permanently repeal the unfair death tax and end the double taxation that threatens the existence of family farms, small businesses, and jobs. As Paul Harvey said in his 1978 speech to the Future Farmers of America (and Dodge’s Super Bowl commercial),
“God looked down on his planned paradise and said, ‘I need somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed and rake and disc and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk and replenish the self-feeder and finish a hard week’s work with a five-mile drive to church.…[somebody] who would laugh, and then sigh and then reply with smiling eyes when his son says that he wants to spend his life doing what Dad does.’ So God made a farmer.”
I have full confidence that by eliminating the unfair taxation and regulatory burdens placed upon agriculture, sons all across America will be able to take after their fathers, and the future will be bright again for our farmers.
— U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson represents the 8th Congressional District and is a member of the House Agriculture Committee. He can be reached at 704-786-1612.