Iowa farmers may be forced to sell land if efforts to change inheritance taxes pass, agriculture groups say

Legislation intended to force the nation’s richest Americans to pay taxes on inherited fortunes would instead drive hard-working farmers to sell land that families have owned for generations, ag and business groups say.

Five leading U.S. senators, including former Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, proposed legislation last month that they say would close a loophole that allows wealthy Americans to sidestep paying taxes on massive inheritances. It could potentially impact farmers, whose valuable land would be taxed when passed on to the next generation.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent, said it’s absurd that many of the country’s wealthiest people “never pay a cent” of capital gains taxes “on millions or even billions” they inherit, while “working people pay taxes on every check they receive.”

But Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, said the legislation would “steal money from hardworking Americans.”

Jim Greif tills one of his soybean fields in Linn County on Wednesday, May 6, 2020. Greif farms about 1000 acres of crops in the area rotating between corn and soybeans.

“I have to ask these Democrats — and it’s well beyond the sponsors of these bill — why would they want to hurt family farmers?” Grassley said in a recent call with reporters.

A coalition of 60 groups, including the National Association of Manufacturers, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Farm Bureau Federation and American Soybean Association, financed an analysis that found proposed tax changes would hurt family-owned businesses — and the broader economy.