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Mr. BOOZMAN. Mr. President, every time I travel the great State of Arkansas, I meet farmers and ranchers who help feed America and the world. That is just how prevalent agriculture is in my home State. It is our No. 1 industry and accounts for $16 billion annually to the State's economy. That is the reason I asked for a seat on the Agriculture Committee. I wanted to help Arkansas's food producers, our farmers who are working to develop and implement policies to increase production, and provide them with the tools and resources they need to continue their important work.
There are two immediate concerns I hear as I travel the State: No. 1, they want us to wrap up the work on a new farm bill. They want to know what the rules are going to be for the next 5 years as they go and visit with their bankers; and No. 2, they do not want us to go over the fiscal cliff.
Arkansas farmers are concerned about what inaction on tax reform will mean to their livelihood. In particular, one of the areas they fear is a rise in the already high and unnecessary tax burden they face when inheriting a loved one's farm or ranch. The death tax makes planning and passing on farms and businesses to the next generation even more difficult. Oftentimes, the cost is too much to absorb, and families end up spending their hard-earned money on attorney's fees, selling their land or part of the business or assets or laying off workers just to pay Uncle Sam.
If the President and the Senate majority refuse to compromise on the tax portion of the fiscal cliff agreement, the death tax will rise dramatically. Arkansas farmers will be forced to hand over to Uncle Sam up to 55 percent of the value of family farm estates that are worth more than $1 million beginning in 2013. This would have a truly devastating impact on nearly a quarter of Arkansas family farms and ranches.
With 97 percent of Arkansas farms being family owned, there is great concern among these agricultural producers, among our farmers and timberland owners about the current inaction on the fiscal cliff or fiscal crisis. A good example is Allen Nipper. He operates a tree farm in Magnolia, AR. He wrote to me about what he rightfully calls ``multiple taxation.'' He says:
We know our lands provide clean water and wildlife habitat that benefits society in general without us expecting a handout or a payment for providing those services. But then at my death, the Government wants to take up to 55 percent of the value after I have invested my efforts into providing those benefits. That is not right, nor is it fair.
I agree with Allen. Part of the American dream is creating an inheritance we can pass on to our future generations. Our farmers and small businesses deserve to pass along their investment to their heirs without having to worry about a tax. That is why I introduced legislation to actually eliminate the death tax. While this idea will not be included in the final tax deal, these hard-working families cannot afford Congress to allow the death tax to return to 55 percent. It is simply unacceptable. At the very least, we need to maintain current policy for another year, until we are able to implement and provide a more permanent solution. We owe it to these hard-working families to work together to solve this issue.
I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.
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