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Farm Bill in Limbo, Easement Incentive Extension in Play

Advocates Alert: November 22, 2011

Super-committee Failure Leaves Farm Bill Without a Vehicle

As you've likely seen in press reports, the deficit reduction super-committee formally announced its failure to reach an agreement, leaving the promising Farm Bill proposal we saw on Friday (summary) without an obvious path to passage.

In a statement on Monday evening, Agriculture Committee Chairs Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) conceded that the super-committee's failure derailed their plans for fast-tracking the Farm Bill. There is still an outside chance their package could move forward in the final weeks of this year, as part of a last minute flurry of legislation.  Even if it doesn't, Friday's proposal -- and its strong funding for conservation easement programs -- will hopefully serve as a starting point for future discussions.

We thank all the land trusts that got us off to a great start by building relationships with Agriculture Committee leaders -- it's clear your hard work is paying off. See our November 20 alert for more details on the proposal. We will keep you up-to-date on further developments...

Easement Incentive Extension -- Back on the Front Burner

Congress now has just three weeks to provide extensions for a whole host of important tax-related provisions that are slated to expire December 31. These include President Obama's payroll tax holiday ($100 b), an Alternative Minimum Tax "patch" ($85 b), unemployment benefits ($50 b), the "doc fix" for Medicare providers ($22 b), and the traditional "extenders" ($40 b), which include the enhanced incentive for conservation easement donations!

Please call your representative and senators today (switchboard: 202-224-3121) and ask them to do everything they can to keep the enhanced easement incentive from expiring December 31!

  • Tell them it will hurt conservation directly, as it did in 2010, when the incentive lapsed on January 1 and was not renewed until December 17. Donating an easement is a lengthy and expensive process for a landowner -- they need to know the law is in place in order to move forward!
  • Ask them to let tax committee leaders know that it is important to keep this conservation incentive from lapsing.
  • Ask them to demonstrate support for the incentive by co-sponsoring H.R. 1964 or S. 339, the bills to make this provision permanent. Only Montana and Rhode Island have their entire delegations on board, so please check the co-sponsor list and use our talking points and fact sheets today.

Interior Appropriations Still in the Works

The other bill that must pass before the end of the year is a fiscal year 2012 continuing resolution to fund federal agencies for which appropriations have not yet been enacted. That includes the Interior bill, which funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund, Forest Legacy Program, North American Wetlands Conservation Act and other important programs. Interior Subcommittee Chairs Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) and Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) are reportedly close to a compromise between the vastly different spending levels in the House and Senate bills, but if you rely heavily on an Interior program, calls to the chairmen from your delegation could still make a difference.

Have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!

H.R. 1964 Co-sponsors Added Since Our Last Update:

  • Rep. Bill Keating (D-MA/10th)
  • Rep. Greg Harper (R-MS/3rd)
  • Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY/5th)
  • Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY/8th)
  • Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI/5th)

See the full list and map at: www.lta.org/easementincentive/cosponsors.

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Advocates Alerts

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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