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Take Action to Force a House Vote on the Farm Bill

Advocates Alert: September 17, 2012

There's a new way to take action, in addition to calling your rep's ag staffer -- visit www.farmbillnow.com, enter your address, and sign a petition and/or send a social media post to your representative -- pick a custom message to highlight conservation programs.

Back in July, we celebrated the House Agriculture Committee's 35-11 vote to pass a bipartisan Farm Bill that would provide $1.58 billion for Agricultural Land Easements over the next decade. But celebration has turned to frustration as House leaders refuse to bring it to the floor for a vote. Now there's finally something you can do about it...

Urge Your Representative to Sign the Farm Bill Discharge Petition

Representatives Bruce Braley (D-IA), Rick Berg (R-ND), Chris Gibson (R-NY), and Peter Welch (D-VT) have filed a "discharge petition" on the Farm Bill. If they are able to secure 218 signatures, it will force House leaders to call an immediate vote. 51 representatives have already signed -- if your rep isn't yet on the list, please call today:

  1. Call your House rep (Switchboard: 202-225-3121) and ask to speak with his or her agriculture staffer.
  2. Tell them how much these Farm Bill conservation programs matter to your land trust and the landowners in their district.
  3. Ask them to sign Rep. Braley's discharge petition #5.

It's urgent that we pass a Farm Bill now. Failure to pass a Farm Bill by October 1st could mean funding cuts or a dead stop for FRPP, GRP, and WRP (see a discussion of three scenarios from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition).  Meanwhile, efforts to pass short-term extensions have become politically charged.  Don't get too bogged down in the details -- simply keep pressure on your rep to pass a 5-year Farm Bill as soon as possible.

Two New S. 339 Co-sponsors -- Make Those Final Calls

We're pleased to announce that Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Mark Pryor (D-AR) have co-sponsored S.339, the Senate bill to make the Enhanced Conservation Easement Tax Incentive Permanent.  If your senators aren't yet on the list, the next few days are your last chance to follow-up before the election. Read more.

Sequestration Would Cut Most Domestic Spending by 8.2 Percent

NOTE: Since this alert was originally published, the deadline was postponed to March 1, 2013, and the percentage reductions changed to 5.0% for most programs and 5.1% for mandatory spending like FRPP & GRP.

Remember last summer's debt limit showdown and the "super-committee" that ended up not being so super after all?

The punishment for the super-committee's failure is something called "sequestration" -- big, indiscriminate spending cuts that kick in January 1, 2013. Almost nobody wants sequestration to happen, and that's the point -- to force a grand bargain. But with no grand bargain in sight, the Office of Management and Budget has released its analysis of the required cuts:

  • Most non-defense discretionary spending, including many conservation programs, would be cut by 8.2%. For example, the Land and Water Conservation Fund would be cut by about $26.6 million.*
  • Most non-defense mandatory spending would be cut by 7.6%. Many Farm Bill programs are considered "mandatory," such as the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program, which would be cut by about $11.5 million.
  • Most defense spending would be cut by 9.4% or 10%.
  • See our table of specific funding levels for conservation programs

Avoiding sequestration will be a major priority for the post-election session of Congress in December. There will be attempts to spare defense spending by imposing more severe cuts on domestic programs. Alternately Congress could waive the budget act to delay sequestration for several months. Or there's even an outside chance they'll achieve some kind of "grand bargain" on taxes and spending. We'll keep you posted as these negotiations proceed.

See you in Salt Lake City!

*The math gets complicated because Congress hasn't yet passed its appropriations bills for Fiscal Year 2013. It is widely expected that Congress will pass a 6-month "continuing resolution" later this week, providing a 0.6% increase over last year's funding levels for most federal programs. Sequestration begins in January, covering just 9 months of the fiscal year beginning in October. The LWCF and FRPP examples cited here assume that Congress extends its 6-month continuing resolution over the entire year, then the annual impact of sequestration is demonstrated by applying the percentage cuts as if they impacted the entire year. Thus the actual cuts in Fiscal Year 2013 could be smaller, but Congress may reach a budget deal that imposes far larger cuts or waives them altogether. Stay tuned...

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February 12: The House successfully voted 279-137, demonstrating a supermajority (67%) of support, on H.R. 644, a package of charitable incentives including the conservation tax incentive.Now we need your help in the Senate to secure co-sponsors! Sens. Heller and Stabenow have requested land trusts’ assistance in asking senators to cosponsor S. 330, the Conservation Easement Incentive Act. Learn more »

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