It’s hard to do, practicing what you preach.
A couple weeks ago I started attempting to make appointments with United States Representatives & Senators for when I was in Washington D.C. for American AgriWomen‘s (AAW) Annual Fly in. I admit, I didn’t try very hard to make appointments with those who don’t hold the same political views as me. However, I did make the effort to stop by their office and say hi. During these visits we learned that Senator Merkley had coffee with constituents at 9 am every Thursday, which happened to be the next day. Senator Merkley is what one would consider liberal or far left and some may consider me conservative or more right leaning.
When I woke in the morning my idealistic “I am going to change the world” attitude was not quite as “gung-ho” as the day before. I toiled with the idea of not going. I mean, really they are not going to agree with me so what’s the point, right? Right. No, wrong!! How hypocritical of me to be a part of multiple organizations that encourage folks to tell their story and go beyond the choir and I am not expecting the same out of myself? Hmmm…
Needless to say, I showed up.
One of AAW’s key issues was the Federal Estate Tax, at the end of this year the current rate will expire and return to 55% tax and a $1 Million dollar exemption level. I am one of the chief petitioners for End Oregon’s Death Tax and also feel very passionately about reforming the Federal Death Tax as well, mind you these are two different taxes. AAW asks for complete elimination or at least an exemption and tax rate that is reasonable. While in DC, I spoke with Senator Wyden‘s aide, Congressman Defazio‘s aide and Congressman Walden about this issue.
I try to not let politicians intimidate me. I have always told myself politicians are just people and should be talked to like people. (Insert jokes here) That’s also what I say when I encourage others to contact their representatives in government.
At Senator Merkley’s office I spoke with the finance advisor, the chief of staff and Senator Merkley himself about the estate tax issue. They all agreed that something needed to be done about it but didn’t agree that elimination was the answer. According to them, the founding fathers intended for their to be an estate tax. Oddly enough history shows that any estate tax since the beginning of being a nation has been repealed and the current one has been in flux for the past 90 years. (Side note, the best thing I have learned when someone tries to trip you up with a comment like the founding fathers one, just stick to what you know and continue telling your story.)
All three were very sincere and concerned about my family farm and small business. They wanted to work to find a solution as they agreed current exemption was not enough. Also they were really glad that I was not “Big Ag” and was continuing on my family’s legacy because not many had that opportunity. That was very interesting considering 98% of farms in the United States are family owned & operated.
I did learn from the Senator’s natural resource aide there is that they are trying to get a “goose amendment” in the farm bill. In the recent years the geese have become a real problem in area for farmers. It’ll be interesting to see what it all entails. The geese virtually wipe out crops, read about here in my friend Brenda’s blog post.
While the staff was pleasant, courteous and somewhat knowledgeable, I couldn’t help but observe that it appeared that a lot of them weren’t from Oregon. In fact the natural resource aide was from rural Maryland and received a Master in Forestry from Yale. I realize the east coast has trees as well but there are very distinct differences. Just some food for thought.
While I slightly dragged my feet on meeting with the Senator, it was definitely worth it. I started a conversation with possible further discussion about the death tax and I learned about the goose farm bill amendment. Is he going to support total elimination of the federal death tax? Probably not. Will he remember me? Maybe not this time ,but probably by the 3rd or 4th time. Will he think of me as a family farmer? Yes. Will I continue to meet with people who do not hold my same views? Absolutely.
“It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself.” -Eleanor Roosevelt