At a news conference in Washington, several organizations representing family farmers and ranchers urged immediate, permanent and meaningful estate tax reform. If estate taxes are allowed to be reinstated at the beginning of 2011 with only a $1 million exemption and a top rate of 55 percent, the negative impact on the agricultural industry will be significant, the groups said.

Chip Bowling, a corn grower from Newburg, Md., represented NCGA at the event. He is president of the Maryland Grain Producers Association and a member of NCGA's Public Policy Action Team.

"Without action from Congress, family owned farms and businesses will continue to face the prospect of even more uncertainty in their planning and the risk of being forced to sell assets in order to pay punitively high estate taxes, Bowling said. "Today, President Obama meets with Congressional leaders at the White House to discuss a path for tax legislation. We hope they realize the importance of extending the estate tax for the future of American farm families and small business owners."

All together, 31 farm organizations support permanently increasing the exemption level to no less than $5 million per persons and reducing the top rate to no more than 35 percent. In a letter sent Monday to President Obama, these organizations noted that it is "imperative" that the exemption be indexed to inflation; provide for spousal transfers; and include the stepped-up basis.

"Family farmers and ranchers are not only the caretakers of our nation's rural lands but they are also small businesses," the letter said. "We are a land-based, capital-intensive industry with few options for paying estate taxes when they come due. The current state of our economy, coupled with the uncertain nature of estate tax liabilities, makes it difficult for family-owned farm and ranches to make sound business decisions."

Click here for a copy of the letter.

NCGA was joined by nine agricultural organizations in the Tuesday news conference, hosted by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. Other organizations included the American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Soybean Association, the National Association of Wheat Growers, the National Cotton Council, the National Farmers Union, the National Milk Producers Federation, the National Pork Producers Council and the Public Lands Council.