The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) has joined more than 30 agricultural organizations in urging Congress to provide farmers and ranchers with permanent relief from the estate tax. The tax is levied on the net value – less an exemption – of an owner’s assets transferred at death to an heir or heirs.

A 2010 tax law set the exemption for 2011 at $5 million and for 2012 at $5.12 million; for both years the tax rate on an estate’s value above the exemption was set at 35 percent. But for 2013 the exemption is scheduled to revert to a pre-2001 level of $1 million per individual, with a 55 percent tax rate. Plus, there would be an extra 5 percent levy on estates valued at more than $10 million.

In letters sent to the Senate and House, the agricultural organizations urged lawmakers to extend the exemption level and retain the 35 percent rate until permanent repeal can be achievable. The change in estate tax is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1 unless the law is changed in the lame duck session of Congress.