I take issue with Troy Marshall's commentary on what he terms the “death tax” (“Death-tax battle tells larger story,” September BEEF, page 56).

I'm personally familiar with the impact the inheritance tax can have on family farm owners. I was forced to sell our ranch in Mississippi in 1972 when my father passed away and we couldn't afford the inheritance tax. Fortunately I was able to buy it back 15 years later.

I'm certainly in favor of relief to family-owned farms, but let's not lose sight of the origins of the inheritance tax. It was enacted to help break up the dynasties of the robber-baron era where a few families had a stranglehold on this country's wealth and exerted a hugely disproportionate influence over the political process, much to the detriment of the common citizen, including farm families. It wasn't called a death tax then, rather it was seen as a “save our democracy” tax.

In today's debate, the plight of family farm owners is used as an excuse to provide inheritance-tax relief to people who are passive owners of farms at best, and who in almost all cases have the liquidity to address inheritance tax requirements. In many cases, these folks have massive fortunes to start with and don't represent the class of owners my father and the majority of your readers fall within.

Because of their agenda, no action is being taken in Congress and no relief is being provided to the people who really need it — the small business and family farm owners.

Let's drop the misleading label of “death tax” and speak to the legitimate issue of how inheritance taxes impact family farms. Relief should be provided in a targeted, cost-effective manner without giving a free ride to multimillionaires and billionaires.
Swep Davis
Rose Hill, MS

Death tax relief needed

Regarding Swep Davis' comments on the inheritance or death tax: By whatever name it's called, it truly harms some family-owned businesses. Claims that few such businesses are so harmed ring false. Just who among us should decide how many is too many? Or which family businesses should be eliminated?

With the death tax in place, rich and powerful families like the Kennedy family and others in this country still thrive. Their vast wealth allows fleets of tax experts, attorneys and lobbyists to assure tax loopholes keep their unearned assets growing and safe from this tax.

That leaves the “lesser rich” — the hard-working families that actively earn their money while also providing jobs for other workers — to pay the larger share of this disgusting tax.

Swep ignores the fact small family businesses have paid tax upon tax in building those businesses. We often hear numbers like 3% to 5% as a likely return on investment for farming businesses. In such a small return on investment, the death tax obligation on a farm or ranch sizeable enough to support a family will be painfully to mortally wounding to the generation that “inherits” the business.
Maxine R. Jones
Midland, SD

Mentorship is important

Your August issue cover story, “Where's My Vet?” addresses the need to enhance food-animal practice, but attention also is also needed on the role of the general practitioner in a rural community. Our veterinary college is working with our industries and legislature to examine measures to promote general practice in rural communities, including serving the needs of food-animal owners.

In addition to the curriculum and our teaching hospitals, we in academia should work with the private practitioners in our educational process. One such event occurred when we invited veterinarians Jim and Tom Furman of Alliance, NE, to visit Oklahoma State University in October 2006 and present a seminar to our veterinary students on general practice, stressing food animals, in a rural community.

Such successful and enthusiastic veterinarians are important role models for students. Academia should reach out for the successful veterinarians in private practice for their interactions with students, both as visitors presenting seminars and also as mentors with the student externs. The Association of Rural Veterinarians is one such group.

Jim and Tom Furman's message for students is one of optimism, emphasis on professionalism, service to the cattle industry, and active participation as a private citizen in one's community. Such interactions instill in students hope for the future of our profession.
Robert W. Fulton, DVM, PhD
McCasland Chair for Food Animal Research
Oklahoma State University
Center for Veterinary Health Sciences