U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) last week introduced the Death Tax Repeal Permanency Act of 2012 (S. 2242) to abolish the federal estate tax or "death tax." The bill would eliminate the generational skipping transfer tax, make permanent the maximum 35 percent maximum gift tax rate and provide a $5 million lifetime gift tax exemption.

Sen. Thune's news release quotes a recent study by Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office, which found that repealing the death tax would create 1.5 million additional small business jobs and decrease the national unemployment rate by 1 percent.

Rice-state senators supporting the measure include Sens. John Boozman (R-Ark.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Texas), Davit Vitter (R-La.), and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).

U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) introduced identical legislation in the House (H.R. 1259) and the bill currently has more than 200 bipartisan cosponsors, including nearly 20 members from rice districts.

USA Rice Federation has long supported permanent repeal of the estate tax, which would strengthen U.S. agriculture by providing certainty in estate planning for farmers, ranchers and others who pass their operations to the next generation.