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Help Set Alliance Priorities; FRPP, GRP & Charitable Deduction at Risk

Advocates Alert: September 21, 2011

UPDATE: While the pre-registration deadline for Rally has passed, on-site registrations are always welcome. Please email rally@lta.org to inquire about availability for specific field trips or seminars, and come prepared to pay on-site. See you in Milwaukee!

Today, September 21, is the registration and hotel reservation deadline for Rally 2012 in Milwaukee, October 13-16. We very much hope you'll be able to join us for all that Rally offers, but in particular hope that you'll take the time to help shape our policy work for the year ahead. The remainder of this alert discusses how the evolving federal budget fight could impact even basic underpinnings of our work, like the deductibility of charitable contributions. At a time when everything is on the table, it's more important than ever that we work together on shared priorities.

What Policy Work Most Supports Your Work? We Need to Hear from You!

Each year, the Alliance holds a session at Rally to review what has happened in the last year and hear what you have to say about the public policy issues the Alliance is working on.  That meeting is Workshop B-18 "Public Policy 2011 Update and 2012 Forum" on Saturday, October 15, 1:30 pm - 3:30 pm in Room 102E of the Convention Center.  If you are at Rally, we hope you will join us, and give us your input.

Whether you are there or not, we'd love to have you read our policy options memo and send us your feedback by Friday, October 7th, so that we can share it with our Policy Advisory Council of land trust leaders, and with our Board of Directors.  The purpose of the Alliance is to help you conserve land -- and you are the best judge of what public policy work will help most.

In the past, we have asked you to fill out a lengthy and complicated chart, scoring a variety of factors for each potential priority.  This year, we have simplified our survey form, with just a few simple questions. Please return the questionnaire or respond online at: www.surveymonkey.com/s/AlliancePriorities.

Click here for highlights of the many policy-related sessions at Rally.

Senate Appropriators Fail to Restore FRPP, Cut GRP Even More

Back in June, we asked for your help urging the Senate to restore funding for Farm Bill easement programs that were cut by the House last spring. Unfortunately, the Senate Appropriations Committee still cut three quarters of a billion dollars from conservation overall and proposed an even more severe cut to GRP:

  • The Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) would be limited to 140,907 acres in fiscal year 2012, an estimated cut of $46 million or 50% -- twice the size of the House cut.
  • House cuts to the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) and Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) were not restored. FRPP would receive $150 million, a 25% cut from the $200 million provided by the 2008 farm bill. A reduction in the WRP acreage cap represents a cut of roughly 29%.

These cuts to easement programs are particularly disappointing because the Senate bill restored $430 million of the House cuts overall, mostly going to the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). The fact that FRPP was not restored and GRP was the only program singled out for further cuts sets a very bad precedent heading into negotiations on the 2012 Farm Bill.

Please call each of your Senators at 202-224-3121, ask to speak with the staffer who handles agriculture issues, and urge them to restore funding to the Farm Bill easement programs you use. Even if we're unable to restore these cuts on the Senate floor, it's important for Senators to hear that these programs are important to their constituents as they begin work on the next Farm Bill. See our talking points and 2012 Farm Bill webpage.

President's Proposals Cap Charitable Deduction, Spare Conservation

To help pay for his new jobs bill, President Obama has proposed capping the effective benefit of charitable tax deductions at 28%. That could reduce charitable contributions by an estimated $7 billion per year, according to Independent Sector, a national association of nonprofits with whom the Alliance is working closely on this issue. You can help defend the charitable deduction by adding your name to a national sign-on letter and using other sample materials on their website.

The news is better for Farm Bill conservation programs, for which he proposes a cut of just $2 billion over ten years. That's barely 3% of the total, a far smaller reduction than most discussions regarding the 2012 Farm Bill have implied.

Finally, there's a pleasant surprise in the President's deficit reduction proposal -- a call to reauthorize the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act. FLTFA is a common-sense "land for land" program that funds strategic conservation in the West through the sale of non-strategic Bureau of Land Management land. Learn more about the effort to reauthorize FLTFA at: www.fltfa.org.

Thanks for helping!


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