House Passes Permanent Enhanced Conservation Deduction
The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 4719, a tax package to encourage charitable giving. Included in the bill were provisions of H.R. 2807, the Conservation Easement Incentive Act. Originally sponsored by Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.) and Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), H.R. 2807 would make permanent an enhanced conservation easement deduction for landowners donating conservation easements. The Conservation Easement Incentive Act had broad bi-partisan support in the House with 222 co-sponsors and the larger charitable tax package passed in the House by a vote of 277 to 130. Companion legislation to H.R. 2807, S. 526, is currently pending in the U.S. Senate where the next vote will occur in order for the enhanced deduction to become permanent.
American Farmland Trust continues to support the enhanced deduction as Congress considers “tax extenders” legislation. AFT is also pursuing broader tax reform, specifically changes to the estate tax that would benefit farmland conservation.
American Farmland Trust Discusses Conservation with United Soybean Board
The United Soybean Board held its summer board meeting July 16-17 in Hershey, Penn., and included on the agenda a roundtable discussion to explore collaboration with conservation organizations. I attended on behalf of American Farmland Trust to discuss AFT’s farmland conservation priorities.
Specifically, I focused broadly on the relationship between conservation and farm economics, highlighting the growing emphasis on risk management and natural resource-based safety nets in federal policy. Related to farm economics and the environment, I highlighted AFT’s recent work on environmental markets in the Ohio River Basin’s Water Quality Trading program. AFT is a partner with the Electric Power Research Institute to provide outreach and education to farmers on this exciting new opportunity. Other topics discussed included AFT’s outreach to women landowners and our continued work on the Regional Conservation Partnership Program.
Other participants in the roundtable included representatives from Environmental Defense Fund, The Nature Conservancy and The Pew Charitable Trust.
More information on the United Soybean Board is available online.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Announces Support for Organic Producers
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced $13 million in funding for organic certification cost-share assistance. According to USDA, the funding will help make organic certification more accessible for small certified producers and handlers in the rapidly growing organic sector.
Authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill, the certification assistance is distributed through two programs within the Agricultural Marketing Service: the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program and the Agricultural Management Assistance Organic Certification Cost-Share Program. USDA is providing $11.5 million through the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program which is available to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. Territories. Through the Agricultural Management Assistance Organic Certification Cost-Share Program, an additional $1.5 million is available to organic operations in Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
These programs provide cost-share assistance through participating states to USDA certified organic producers and handlers for certification-related expenses they incur from October 1, 2013 through September 30, 2014. Payments cover up to 75 percent of an individual producer’s or handler’s certification costs, up to a maximum of $750 per certification. To receive cost-share assistance, organic producers and handlers should contact their state agencies. Each state will have their own guidelines and requirements for reimbursement, and the National Organic Program (NOP) will assist states as much as possible to successfully implement the programs. State contact information can be found on the NOP Cost Share Website.
Wetland Mitigation Banking Public Listening Sessions Announced
USDA announced a series of public listening sessions on wetland mitigation banking. The agency is seeking comments on proposed changes to offsite methods used in making wetland determinations and new wetland mitigation banking alternatives related to implementation of the 2014 Farm Bill.
Listening sessions have been scheduled for:
- July 28, Ankeny, Iowa
- July 29, Albert Lea, Minnesota
- July 30, Aberdeen, South Dakota
- July 31, Fargo, North Dakota
- Aug. 7, Gainesville, Florida (Additional info TBD)
- Aug. 14, Davis, California (Additional info TBD)
More information on the locations and times of the listening sessions is available from NRCS.