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Industry Updates: Death Tax and Grazing Management

A Continued Fight for Permanent Repeal of the Death Tax

Washington, D.C. (February 20, 2003) – More than a month into the new 108th Congress, U.S. cattle producers continue to urge the importance of permanent repeal of the Death Tax.

"There’s some misinformation out there that the Death Tax never put a farmer or rancher out of business. That’s completely bogus propaganda," says Jay Truitt, executive director of legislative affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). "We are living proof, there are endless names, real people suffering. So many producers have been drastically affected, and some operations have lost everything over the years as a result of this immoral tax on death."

The Lightsey family of central Florida is just one real-world example that illustrates the seriousness of this plight for cattle producers.

"Our story is no different than that of countless other ranching families from across the country," says Cary Lightsey. "All we want to do is preserve our land and ranching operation to pass on to our children, yet the government has made this an extremely difficult and burdensome task."

When Lightsey's father, Doyle, passed away suddenly in 1973 at the age of 56 the family had no idea what they were in store for. "Dad left behind a wife and three young children with no form of estate planning, not even a will. In the middle of dealing with our loss we got hit with an estate tax in excess of $1 million that was to be paid within a year," says Lightsey.

"Because of our location, much of our land was appraised as commercial and well above its agriculture value. We are a ranching family. Part of our ranch has been in our family since 1890 and we want to preserve that way of life. It is not fair for the government to come in and punish us because of the value they place on our land due to the commercialization of our state.

"The whole process has taken its toll on our family," says Lightsey. "That is the thing with the death tax -- it keeps coming back from one generation to the next."

In the House, the Death Tax Permanency Act of 2003, (H.R.57), which calls for permanent repeal, was introduced last month by Rep. Jennifer Dunn (WA-8). The bill was referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means. As of today, 131 members have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill. Similar legislation in the Senate, titled Permanent Death Tax Repeal Act of 2003 (S.169), was introduced by Sen. John Kyl (AZ) and has been referred to the Committee on Finance.

"We are confident that many members of the 108th Congress understand the long-term ramifications of the Death Tax, and that it is an economically destructive punishment for today’s struggling farmers and ranchers. With 131 co-sponsors, and more signing on all the time, we are looking forward to a vote on this legislation in the House, as well as in the Senate," says Truitt.

Drought Raising Importance of Grazing Land Management

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Drought that has plagued the central Plains the past three years makes it more important than ever to manage grazing lands properly, according to a Kansas State University (K-State) grazing land management specialist.

"Managing grazing land for 2003 – particularly in much of central and western Kansas – must include reduced stocking rates, both to protect future forage production and to maintain animal performance," said Paul Ohlenbusch, state agronomy leader with K-State Research and Extension. "The amount of forage available will be much less than normal.

"Grazing at normal or even reduced rates in 2003 may result in over-grazing and curb the forage of the most desirable grass species. That cuts forage production and animal performance even further."

This year is one of those particularly challenging years in the central Plains, he said. Last October's rainfall was welcome, but forage prospects are still tenuous, at best.

"Dry, windy conditions this winter have probably removed much of the moisture from the soil that came from October precipitation. Stockmen are concerned with dry conditions and grass prospects for the coming grazing season," Ohlenbusch said.

Both warm- and cool-season grasses store nutrients for their initial growth during late winter and early spring.

"Since the plants were grazed short in many areas last season, they didn't store the needed nutrients and will be slower to start growth this spring. The result will be poor forage production in 2003," Ohlenbusch said.

The critical need in 2003 is to have adequate leaf growth on forage grasses by this fall, the agronomist said. Summer grazing of cool-season pastures during dry conditions can be a particular threat to future production.

He recommends an average grazing height of 4 inches in eastern Kansas this year because the grasses there – predominately big bluestem and Indiangrass – are taller grasses. In central areas where pastures are largely composed of little bluestem and switchgrass, grazing can grade down to 3 inches. The shorter western Kansas grasses – sideoats, grama and blue grama – can be grazed to 2 inches.

"Grazing the grass shorter than the recommended height removes too much leaf area from the plants. It's important to leave enough leaf area to produce the foodstuffs needed to promote plant growth and ensure a healthy root system," he said.

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