Farm Policy Roundup—August 1, 2014

Congress Enters Recess without Finishing Appropriations, Tax Extenders

Cabbage fieldCongress begins a month-long recess today, leaving many issues to address when legislators return in September. Legislation left unfinished includes fiscal year 2015 agriculture appropriations and permanent extension of the enhanced conservation easement deduction which expired last year. American Farmland Trust worked with our allies to advance these priorities. Together, both pieces of legislation are essential for continued protection of our nation’s working farm and ranch land.

Senators Seek Clarification on Clean Water Act Rule

This week, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow urged the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide farmers and ranchers with more certainty as the agencies move forward with proposed Clean Water Act rulemaking. The letter was signed by 12 other Senators and said stakeholders across the country have raised concerns with the proposed “U.S. waters rule” and that more clarity from the agencies could provide much-needed certainty – to make sure the rule doesn’t have unintended effects on agriculture and on critical conservation efforts.

The letter asks the agencies for clarification across several issues to ensure the intent of the rule is met – to promote conservation practices and provide regulatory certainty for farmers and ranchers.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Issues Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Report

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a report that provides uniform scientific methods for quantifying the changes in greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and carbon storage from various land management and conservation activities.

The report, titled Quantifying Greenhouse Gas Fluxes in Agriculture and Forestry: Methods for Entity-Scale Inventory, will help USDA evaluate current and future greenhouse gas conservation programs, as well as develop new tools and update existing ones to help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners participate in emerging carbon markets.

The report outlines science-based methods for quantifying changes in GHG emissions and carbon storage at the local farm, ranch or forest operation. Reducing GHG emissions and increasing carbon storage builds healthy, carbon-rich soils and more resilient production of food, fiber and fuel.

While the report represents significant progress by providing scientific methods for quantifying changes in greenhouse gas emissions from land management and conservation activities, it does not fully explore land use impacts and greenhouse gas benefits that can be gained from avoided conversion of farmland to development.

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