Election Kicks off Sprint for Conservation Funding & Incentives
We'd like to thank the 100+ Advocates who joined us for yesterday's post-election strategy call on conservation funding and incentives. Miss it? Click here for the recording.
45 Days to Save the Easement Incentive & Farm Bill Funding
Your help has taken us to the verge of two major victories, but Congress is running out of time:
- The enhanced conservation easement tax incentive remains expired, but support from 310 Representatives and 25 Senators helped us get a 2-year extension in the Senate Finance Committee's "tax extenders" bill. The House has said good things, but has yet to act. Failure to get the incentive back on the books by December 31 would cost us a year or more of conservation and put us in a weak position as Congress debates tax reform.
- Amidst $35 billion in overall cuts, the Senate and House Agriculture Committee have proposed increasing* Farm Bill funding for land trusts to buy easements to as much as $1.58 billion over the next decade. Thanks to your help, House leaders have promised to "deal with" the Farm Bill after the election, but a delay into 2013 could cost $500 million in easement funding.
It's too late to send letters or ask for co-sponsors. Pick the issue that matters most to your land trust and make personal phone calls to your rep and senators' tax or agriculture staffers (202-224-3121). Tell them what it means for your community and ask their advice for how we can get across the finish line -- they may or may not have an answer for you, but the fact that you asked will make a difference! And let us know what you hear back.
Media outreach can amplify your message. Visit our post election sprint toolkit for sample materials, talking points and advice.
Sign a Coalition Letter for the Farm Bill – Deadline Friday
Please consider adding your organization's voice to a broad coalition letter urging passage of a five-year farm bill before Congress adjourns. To sign-on, contact firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday. You can also help at www.farmbillnow.com.
A Few Thoughts about the Election…
Many of you have been asking what the election means for our work, so here are a few take-aways:
- Voters overwhelmingly support conservation -- 81% of land conservation ballot measures passed, generating $767 million. Learn more.
- The silver lining of a status quo election is that neither party can expect a better negotiating position in January, improving the odds for action this year.
- Several of our Farm Bill and easement incentive champions survived tough challenges, including Senate Ag Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY), who highlighted farm bill conservation programs in his post-election remarks.
- The Democratic co-chairs of the House Land Conservation Caucus -- Reps. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) were both elected to the Senate.
- Easement incentive co-sponsors were re-elected at a rate above the national average, but many are retiring. It will take hard work to replace the 57 co-sponsors not returning next year.
Look for resources to engage newly-elected legislators over the coming weeks.
Thanks for helping!
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*Some have noted that $1.58 billion is a decrease compared to the $2 billion budget "baseline" for FRPP over the next 10 years. It is, however, an increase compared to actual funding for perpetual easements (FRPP + perpetual GRP) over the past 10 years. Proposed funding for the next 5 years also exceeds the preceding 5 year period. It should be noted that the Agriculture Committees jumped through hoops to save the functions of GRP and WRP, which had no "baseline" at all. The House has proposed $3.5 billion for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program overall, significantly more than the $2 billion "baseline" they started from. Given the tough fiscal climate, the Alliance is eager to support this outcome.