Thursday, December 2, 2010
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Used with permission (see final note):
Commentary: D-Day approaches on estate tax reform
Issue Date: July 21, 2010
By Paul Wenger
Ag Alert Update, July 28: Estate tax bill introduced in Senate
Read related story
Estate tax reform sees movement with Senate bill
In 2001, Congress passed a number of tax reform laws designed to stimulate the economy as businesses and individuals reinvested their tax savings. These laws had a 10-year sunset and 2011 is when most of the “President Bush Tax Package” will cease to exist. None of the reforms passed in 2001 and set to expire are more important than the estate tax.
Over the last 10 years, the value of assets a person could pass on to their heirs gradually increased, until this year, when there were zero federal taxes due on any estate. The problem is, without congressional action, beginning Jan. 1, 2011, the estate tax will come roaring back, reverting to 2000 levels: a 55 percent tax on all assets above a $1 million per person/spouse exemption level. Although the exemption level in 2009 went from $3.5 million per person and a 45 percent tax rate thereafter, to no estate tax in 2010, other features, like stepped-up basis on property values at the time the property is inherited, are gone.
Preserving stepped-up basis is important to farm and ranch families because an heir’s new tax basis is the value of the farm at the time it is inherited. When someone inherits a farm under the “carryover basis” that took effect in 2010, the heir faces additional capital gains taxes. Without congressional action, stepped-up basis is gone in 2011, as well as the $1 million personal gift tax provision that allows a person to give that amount of money to someone, tax-free.
While the numbers I write about are large by anyone’s standard, the estate tax disproportionately affects farmers and ranchers. And while the super-wealthy are looking to pass cash, stocks and other liquid assets to their heirs, farmers and ranchers look to pass on non-liquid assets centered around land, buildings and livestock. Many who inherit agricultural property end up selling part or all of those assets to settle their tax burden. This results in multi-generational farmers being forced to make life-changing decisions regarding their future pursuits. It is likewise a major reason farm and ranch lands are converted to urban and non-agricultural development.
The politics of dissension in Washington, D.C., has created a quagmire for families faced with settling estates this year and planning for the future. Rumors that Congress will pass estate tax legislation that will be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2010, have many families not knowing which way to turn. The lack of resolve by Congress to solve this already very emotional issue is unconscionable.
Many proposals abound, the latest by Sens. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., and John Kyl, R-Ariz., who have proposed a bill that over a 10-year period would allow for a $5 million exemption per person/spouse with a 35 percent tax rate on the balance. While this is better than what will result in 2011 with no action by Congress, it falls well short of what is needed to allow California farmers and ranchers to pass their land and operations on to their children. The average land values in California are not seen in most other states, so the estate tax becomes a much more serious challenge to the survival of our family farms and ranches.
Recognizing our uniqueness, Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, has been a tireless advocate since his first year in Congress, writing reforms into the estate tax laws that provide for the least costly transfer of farm assets between generations. Recently, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has joined Rep. Thompson in designing legislation that will allow the transfer of a farm or ranch between family members without tax obligation, until such time as the farm is sold outside the family or to a use other than agriculture. Rather than a forgiveness of taxes, this is a deferral of taxes until there is an actual sale. This is only fair and right.
The longer it takes Congress to address the estate tax issue, the more unpredictable it becomes. Recently, a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities entitled “Unlimited Estate Tax Exemption for Farm Estates is Unnecessary and Likely Harmful” made the ridiculous claim that farmers are not affected by the estate tax, and that there are “no known incidents where a farm has been sold in part or whole to settle estate tax obligations.” I researched the CBPP and found it to be a liberal advocacy organization, more focused on wealth reallocation than protecting hard-working farm and ranch families. Yet its ludicrous assertions create doubt.
It is time to fight back. I want to take a few farmers and ranchers with me to Washington to provide a real face—a real story, a real example—to show the real pervasiveness of the estate tax. I have asked Sen. Feinstein’s office for the opportunity to meet the authors of the CBPP report and I will bring our members who can refute, firsthand, the erroneous assertions their report makes.
I know issues like the estate tax are personal and farmers and ranchers are a private lot, but WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE. Your story—directly told to congressional members—could set the stage for real reform that will allow for the orderly transition of a farm or ranch from one generation to the next without forcing life-altering decisions when a family member dies.
It’s D-Day, folks. I can think of no group of individuals better suited to fight this important battle than California farmers and ranchers.
Call or write me now with your personal stories. Let’s go get ’em!
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Monday, August 9, 2010
What Willie doesn't expose to the general public is that more than 95% of farms in the US are family-owned (vs. "industrial"/large commercially owned farms); and these are not just farmers selling produce from 10 acres. Many of these family owned businesses, some generations old, are hurting as much as the smallest in the business. Coupled with increasing regulation and permit fees, fines, agency domination, and you have a business that is being strangled while the rest of America sleeps at the wheel. It is as if Orwell's 1984 "predictions" about turning the world upside down is truly occurring. If this sounds Greek, stop and ask a farmer or rancher - how's it going these days?????
For a myriad of reasons, the public is developing an antipathy about the importance of agriculture and the role of farmers and ranchers. Oh, yes, they want to support their "local growers" -- uh, let's see, how many farmers and ranchers actually live a stone's throw from urban areas? Have you examined a map of the nation???
But if, for example, CA lawmakers win their bid to find more ways to bleed taxpayers, they'll eliminate the Williamson Act, which taxes agricultural land on what it produces versus its value on the 'real estate' market. And in areas like Napa or the Central Valley, or Southern California, how can farmers compete with the land values of those seeking to expand urban sprawl or to build their 'dream homes' or second homes with that 'country flair?'
Moreover, if inheritance taxes are eliminated or radically revised, agriculturalists will pay again and again just for the right to farm -- with each passing generation it becomes almost impossible for the younger generation to keep the land. What so many consumers forget is that agriculture is a business; as someone wisely said, farming "without a financial motive" is gardening! Unfortunately, the issues facing growers and producers nowadays are complicated and are forcing more and more out of the business. It's becoming impossible to compete with the extremist movements and biased media that perpetuate MYTHS about the people raising the food in this country; as a result, they are driving many hard-working and farm-loving families out of business. This is especially sad when it means that wide open spaces will then be carved up because holding onto the farm is impossible. And that impacts wildlife and waterfowl tremendously, so that even the most extreme environmentalists should be pushing to KEEP farmers and ranchers on the land rather than finding ways to eliminate them.
If there was ever a time that consumers should stand up and look to FARMERS and RANCHERS for answers to some of the most important questions about conservation, environmentalism, resources, and what could very well be lost across this nation, NOW is the time. From California to Montana to Texas and Alabama or Florida, agriculturalists are dying on the vine.......
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
As a teacher, I've occasionally been put in the position of trying to defend teachers and their reasons for going into the profession. Too many people want to moan and complain, claiming that teachers just wanted an 'easy job' and that they don't really 'earn their pay.' ANYONE in the field of education knows how ridiculous that statement is and it becomes tiresome trying to convince parents and the public that teachers really DO go into the field to HELP kids, to make a difference, to impact their world, to give to kids.....
Ironically, as a rancher/farmer's wife, I even more often feel this same kind of distressing frustration! How many people feel qualified in their hearty tongue-lashings against those in agriculture. LITTLE do they realize, for the most part, that ranchers/farmers ALSO consider themselves 'givers' and 'doers.' They BELIEVE in the goodness of their innate desire to cultivate the land and raise animals. Far more than anyone outside the world of agriculture will ever appreciate, farmers and ranchers make FAR less than teachers for the hours/time/energy/overhead they POUR into their crops, livestock, land, etc.
And yet, people feel more than qualified to denounce what they do and to condemn them. Sadly, they do not look past the 12-14 hour days spent in icy winds or rain-soaked conditions, working to birth a calf or rescue a lamb or protect an orchard or crop from devastation or disaster. Instead, the mythology that is perpetuated has placed agriculturalists at the bottom rung of a very long ladder, with every kind of malicious intent. Most of the criticisms are based on little but regergetated hogwash that's been batted around freely by people who know little to nothing about agriculture. Like the people who feel qualified to bash teachers, many people think they're qualified to bash farmers and ranchers.
It's pretty disheartening. NO, it's HORRIBLY disheartening. My husband has often said, "But we are feeding the WORLD. American farmers are FEEDING the world." Indeed, we are not only feeding people world wide, we are one of the FEW industries in this country that are fully invested IN THIS country. Yet the average agriculturalist is making far less than he did several years ago.....with little to no appreciation being expressed by the consumer. Perhaps, as my husband has also said, Americans are just not "hungry enough" these days....Isn't it time people realize that farming without a financial motive is merely gardening? And no one is asking for a HUGE return; more often, farmers and ranchers are simply asking for some respect.
American consumers want quantity and quality without spending more, although they are quite willing to spend ridiculous sums of money on shoes, entertainment, technology, cars, vacations and recreation -- all considered "necessities" to many these days! At the same time, they don't seem to want a farmer/rancher to NEED to make a profit! Like those who criticize teachers, they want to dish out every level of criticism without considering the consequences of their demands.
IF Americans resent farmers and ranchers, they may well face the day when there will be far fewer of them. Fewer and fewer young people are going into agriculture; why should they, when the work is long, exhausting, and the return is so low (maybe 3% in some cases!???). If the "greenies" have their way, the ranchers in this country might well find themselves UNABLE to ranch. Where issues are complicated, there seems to be little sympathy for agriculturalists, only criticism and condescension.
If this seems 'over the top,' then think again: ask some farmers or ranchers (if you can find some in your neighborhood) about the REAL ISSUES they're facing -- the obstacles, the level of animosity, suspicion, condemnation, regulation and taxation, rising fees -- then look at what is in store for the FUTURE of agriculture in this nation.
Agriculture is a business and it's facing issues that could break it. People may find this a frightening thought, but it is beginning to surface: FOOD IN THE 21ST MAY BECOME A LUXURY.......
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
According to the Ramberg Media Group's article, "Protecting the Environment, one Cattle Ranch at a Time,"by Alfa Spartan, among 40 "earth-friendly practices" that ranchers and farmers engage in include:
1. working to prevent erosion
2. keeping waterways clean
3. protecting/enhancing wildlife
4. recycling resources
"More than half of Americans surveyed recognized the significance of these efforts, believing that activities such as planting crops and grasses to control erosion, rotating cattle pastures to prevent overgrazing and planting trees to provide windbreaks and shelter - all of which are part of everyday life to cattlemen - play a key role in protecting our environment."
It's important that Americans realize the impact and the positive effect farmers and ranchers do have on the environment and the ways they are achieving, and have maintained, a "green economy!" Too many myths that have been cycled leave out the great efforts made by cattle ranchers and agriculturalists all over this nation.
Show some appreciation to those in the business of farming and ranching THIS year on EARTH DAY! Thank a Farmer! Thank a Rancher - they DO care about the land that serves them and the animals that are under their care.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
There is no direct evidence that lean beef increases the risk of Cardio Vascular Disease. In fact, recent clinical trials have shown that there's no reason to completely substitute fish or poultry for lean beef to achieve desirable blood lipid profiles, and including lean beef in a heart-healthy diet plan contributes to good health through beef's essential nutrients, which include iron, zinc, and B-vitamins.
Current research recommends a food-based approach to good health where foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, lean meats, poultry, low-fat dairy products, and fish, especially oily fish, are encouraged over calorie dense, nutrient-poor food choices.
Lean beef contains less than 10 g total fat, no more than 4.5 g of saturated fats, and less than 95 mg cholesterol per 3-ounce serving. Based on the American Heart Association’s dietary fat recommendations, those people consuming a 2,000 calorie diet need to consume between 56 g and 78 g of total fat and a saturated fat intake of 16 g or less. A 3-ounce serving of lean beef contains levels of total fat and saturated fats well below the specified limits; cholesterol levels also fall below the recommendation of no more than 300 mg/day.
There currently are 29 cuts of beef which meet USDA’s labeling guidelines for lean. Unfortunately, the fatty acid profile of beef fat is often misunderstood. In lean beef, 54% of the fatty acids are monounsaturated or polyunsaturated, which are the types favored by health organizations. And one-third of the saturated fats in beef are stearic acid, which has lately been shown to have no effect on blood cholesterol levels in humans. Beef actually contains low amounts of trans fatty acids and studies suggest that "ruminant" (related to cattle) trans fatty acids versus the trans fatty acidsproduced industrially in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils may favorably affect health and do impact the risk of Cardio Vascular Disease.
In fact, new findings from experimental animal studies suggest that the trans fatty acid, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is produced in beef, may have a positive influence on blood lipid levels and Cardio Vascular Disease risk!
That is especially good news for beef lovers who have concerns about cCardio Vascular Diseases! And the good news about beef keeps coming.....
Monday, January 18, 2010
At Subway, Brooking lists the Best Choice as:
The 6-Inch Roast Beef Sandwich on 9 Grain Wheat
With only 310 calories, 5g fat (2g saturated fat), and 26g protein, this sandwich is a standout choice. Opt for a meal deal with apple slices and you add just 35 calories and no fat. Bonus: This meal gives you a total of 7g fiber―about 25 percent of the daily recommendation.
And at Taco Bell, she cites as the Best Choice:
Fresco Grilled Steak Soft Taco
It is moderate in calories with less than 9g fat per serving. The Fresco Grilled Steak Soft Taco has 160 calories, 4.5g fat (1.5g saturated fat), and 9g protein. Ask for a side of hot sauce or extra salsa to add even more flavor for very few calories.
In summary, it’s not so much that BEEF is what is tough on the cholesterol levels and poor nutrition choices, but what goes with the beef selections. It can’t be overstated that the American love affair with French Fries is far more detrimental to good health than a healthy and reasonable portion of American beef!
Thursday, January 14, 2010
As you consider the changing landscape of American life, it is important to recognize that rural America plays a vital role in the economic recovery. A good economy is based on PRODUCTION and CREATION, and farmers/ranchers throughout this country provide a sound and consistently excellent product for export all over the world.
US: Farm exports to rise in 2010
07 Dec 2009
"A recovering global economy is expected to boost demand for US high-value products," said USDA in a quarterly assessment of export and import prospects. Improved sales are expected for livestock, dairy and poultry products, corn and cotton compared to the initial forecast in August.
Farm exports hit a record $115 bln in fiscal 2008 and fell to $96.6 bln in fiscal 2009 due to falling demand resulting from the global recession.
USDA expects agricultural imports to increase to $77.5 bln this year from $73.4 bln in fiscal 2009. That would result in an agricultural trade balance of $20.5 bln for fiscal 2010.