American Farm Bureau Federation's Pat Wolff says permanent estate tax relief is the most important tax issue for ag, but may have to wait until after the November election.
Wolff says lawmakers are well aware if they don't act the estate tax exclusion will revert to the 2001 level of $1 million and a 55% rate from the current $5 million exemption per person and 35%.
But Wolff says no one in Washington is rushing to resolve the issue, not with some 50 tax laws that expired in December.
"And there is another 40 or so that expires at the end of 2012," Wolff said. "Every one of those issues has a constituency that thinks their issue is the most important. So it's hard to believe Congress will pull out just one or two and deal with them separately, it looks more and more like the issue of these expiring provisions will be dealt with as a package."
And that would be after the election, in a lame duck session. But Wolff says now is not a good time to put off action on estate tax reform.
"Farm land values are on the rise," Wolff said. "That means that if we go back to a $1 million exemption the harm that would be caused to agriculture is greater than it's ever been before."
Wolff says it's great for Congress to say it will deal with estate taxes at the end of the year, but she argues that doesn't help a farmer who is trying to plan their estate.
Farm Bureau wants the estate tax completely gone, and the House may pass a bill to do that, but Wolff concedes the votes are not there in the Senate.
"The best we can hope for this Congress is to extend what we have and that is the $5 million exemption and 35% rate," Wolff said. "We view that as a step toward repeal. So maybe we can't get it all at once, but we can get it a step at a time and extending what we have and making that permanent would go a long way toward protecting farms and ranches."
Another tax key for agriculture is the capital gains tax that will jump to 20% from 15% in 2013, along with further changes in small business equipment expensing, again, if Congress doesn't act.