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McCain Amendment Would Slash Conservation, Farm Bill Fast-Tracked

Advocates Alert: October 19, 2011

Update 11/1/11: Congratulations! Thanks to your outreach, the harmful McCain amendment, which would have continued this year’s conservation program cuts over the next ten years, was withdrawn! The Agriculture Appropriations Bill that passed today includes some cuts to the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program and the Grassland Reserve Program – but the funding to restore those cuts will remain available to the next Farm Bill.  And that next Farm Bill could come a lot sooner than we thought, as Agriculture Committee leaders appear poised to submit a complete draft Farm Bill to the deficit-cutting “super-committee” this week. While the language specific to the McCain amendment is no longer needed, we still need help telling your delegation about the importance of FRPP and GRP to your work and your community. If you haven’t yet called your Senators and Rep., please call today!

Drafting a new Farm Bill often takes over a year. This time, the process may be substantially complete in the next few weeks! Knowing that cuts are inevitable, Agriculture Committee leaders are seeking to enact as much of the Farm Bill as possible through the deficit reduction process, thus avoiding unpredictable amendment votes on the floor. But budget hawks have other opportunities to cut -- we need your help fighting one appropriations amendment TODAY that could slash Ag Conservation funding by $7 billion over the next decade.

Call Your Senators Today to Fight Anti-Conservation McCain Amendment

The Senate may vote as soon as today on an amendment offered by Senator John McCain (R-AZ) to strip a provision from the Agriculture Appropriations Bill that ensures this year's uncharacteristically large appropriations cuts won’t be factored into the "baseline" for each year of the next Farm Bill. In other words, the McCain amendment would erase half a billion dollars from the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) over the next decade.

This harmful amendment could be voted on within hours so please call both of your Senators today:

  • Reach your Senators via the Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121.
  • Ask to speak with the staff member who handles agriculture.
  • Introduce your organization and share how FRPP and/or GRP has helped your organization or it's partners to leverage other funding sources and landowner donations to achieve cost-effective, perpetual conservation of working farms and ranches in your area.
  • Urge them to oppose the McCain Amendment (S.A. 746 to H.R. 2112) to prevent the uncharacteristically large cuts of a single year from crippling conservation in the next Farm Bill.

Read on for additional Farm Bill concerns you may want to mention on your calls.

Farm Bill Easement Programs At Risk in Fast-Tracked Bill

On Friday, Agriculture Committee leaders informed the deficit reduction "super-committee" of their intent to deliver a Farm Bill by November 1st that provides for $23 billion in savings over the next ten years. Of that total, $6 billion would come from conservation programs, a cut of about 10%. If divided proportionally to levels in the 2008 Farm Bill, that would be a manageable cut, but that's a big if.

Funding for working lands easement programs -- the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) and Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) -- doubled in 2008, so they may be targeted as easy to cut.  Please voice your support for these programs to your Senators, and ask them to urge Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Pat Roberts (R-KS) to strongly defend the funding for these programs in their work with the deficit reduction process!

Read more about these programs and our proposals at: www.lta.org/policy/farm-bill.

Senate Spares Charitable Deduction

In our September 21 alert, we warned that President Obama proposed to pay for his Jobs Bill by capping the effective benefit of charitable tax deductions at 28%. Fortunately, our community’s efforts to demonstrate the importance of charitable deductions worked, and the Senate replaced this provision before bringing the jobs bill up for a vote!

Despite this victory, it is entirely possible that restrictions on charitable giving incentives will re-emerge at another stage in the deficit reduction process. You can help defend the charitable deduction by adding your name to a national sign-on letter and using other sample materials on the Independent Sector website.

Conservation Funding Letter Still Open for Signatures

We know the deluge of requests to sign-on to funding letters can get overwhelming. That's why we're so enthusiastic about the America's Voice for Conservation Recreation and Preservation coalition letter. Our goal is to recruit 1,000 organizations and businesses to sign this one letter opposing disproportionate cuts to natural resources programs generally. Having one broad letter available for repeated use supporting federal conservation programs in various bills will save us all time.

We're already up to 870 signers, so you can help us get over the top. To sign the letter, simply email the name of your organization or business to alyssa_way@tws.org.

Thanks for helping.

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