Farmer Brandon Whitt knows firsthand the harmful effects of the estate tax. His Tennessee seventh-generation operation, Batey Farms, changed completely when his father-in-law was forced to sell off land to pay estate taxes. The land was lost to development, never to be recovered.
Today, Whitt says, they continue to face expensive, long-term decisions to make Batey Farms viable far into the future.
That’s why Whitt, a Farm Bureau member, headed to Washington DC to encourage Congress to rethink the tax.
“Agriculture looks different on farms from state to state but we all face the same reality that an uncertain tomorrow can bring,” Whitt said to the House Ways and Means Committee. “Why should uncertainties over estate taxes be added to these others? Our job is hard enough as it is,” he said.
Several farmers and ranchers were on the panel highlighting the impact of the tax on family businesses. They explained the challenges of living in an asset rich, cash poor environment. Around 90% of farm and ranch assets are illiquid, with the value tied up in land, buildings and equipment.
“We believe that our farm adds value to our town, that our neighbors value our open space, that our customers value having a local food source and that our farm market creates a sense of community,” Whitt said.
For Whitt’s family, like most farmers, the ability to grow a business and pass it on to the next generation is slowed by a tax policy in direct conflict with the desire to preserve and protect our nation’s family-owned farms and ranches.
The U.S. has the fourth highest estate tax in the country at 40%.