The USA Rice Federation and 29 other agricultural organizations sent a letter to U.S. lawmakers expressing support for permanently increasing the federal estate tax exemption before the end of the year to no less than $5 million per person and reducing the top tax rate to no more than 35 percent. The group also wrote that it is imperative that the exemption be indexed to inflation and provide for spousal transfers.

Though the estate tax is not in effect for 2010, it is set to be reinstated in January, but with a $1 million exemption level and top tax rate of 55 percent. Without changes, "the negative impact on our industry will be significant" and will put "many operations at risk and threatens succession to the next generation of farmers," the letter says.

Reforming current estate tax laws before the end of this year "will strengthen the business climate for farm and ranch families while ensuring agricultural businesses can be passed to future generations," the letter says.