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New Farm Bill Passes with Two-Year Tax Incentive for Conservation!

Advocates Alert: May 23, 2008

The expanded tax incentive for conservation easement donations has been extended through the end of 2009, and retroactive to January 1.  We simply could not have achieved this major victory without your help every step of the way!

Yesterday, Congress overrode a Presidential veto to pass the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008. Although there was a clerical error in the process, it largely concerns a 34-page segment of the bill that was not in the copy of the bill the President vetoed (and is unrelated to the conservation provisions we have focused on).*

In addition to renewing the easement incentive, this bill:

  • Provides a total of $733 million over 5 years for the Farmland Protection Program. It also clarifies the eligibility of land trusts to participate directly and specifies the following funding levels: $97M in FY08, $121M in FY09, $150M in FY10, $175M in FY11 and $200M in FY12.
  • Re-establishes the Grassland Reserve Program with a goal of 1.22 million acres, funded with an estimated $300 million.

Click here for the exact language.

Thank you for adding your voice to the hundreds of land trusts and dozens of conservation, wildlife, sportsmen's and agricultural organizations that helped make this victory possible. We have powerful champions in Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Representatives Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Dave Camp (R-MI), but champions alone have failed to extend dozens of other popular tax provisions that expired this year. Your passion, and those many urgent phone calls made all the difference!

How You Can Help

Pat yourself on the back!  Soon, we'll be releasing a new "grassroots toolkit" full of templates to spread the news about this important conservation tool in your community, and to re-launch our campaign to make the incentive permanent. But today is all about saying thank you:

  • Send thank-you emails to all the board members, partners and individual supporters who you've asked to contact Congress throughout this process.
  • Fax thank you letters to each Senator and Representative who did anything to support the easement incentive, from cosponsoring S.469 or H.R. 1576 to voting for the final Farm Bill. Click here for a sample letter including links to those lists.
  • Send a brief personal email or handwritten note to any Congressional staff members who were particularly helpful.
  • Thank any reporters who covered your work with the easement incentive. Consider forwarding a copy of our press release with a personal note.

Of course, we're disappointed the conservation tax incentive wasn't made permanent, but this two-year extension has the potential to help us conserve an area twice the size of Rhode Island--forever. That's a legacy for future generations we can truly be proud of! 

Thank you!

Russ Shay                          
Director of Public Policy   
Land Trust Alliance                

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* Interested in the controversy over how the veto was done?  In short, House and Senate parliamentary experts believe that all parts of the Farm Bill except the 34-page international trade section that wasn't in the package that the President vetoed are now law.

Here are excerpts from the Washington Post account:

With an overwhelming 82 to 13 vote, the Senate yesterday completed the override of President Bush's veto of a comprehensive farm bill, shrugging off Republican concerns about an embarrassing legislative glitch to make the $307 billion bill the law of the land.

House GOP leaders continued to grumble that Democrats had violated the Constitution by pressing forward with the veto override after they discovered that a whole section of the bill on trade policy had been inadvertently dropped from the version vetoed Wednesday.

But Democratic leaders said they had court precedent and constitutional scholars on their side. "The veto override will have the force of law," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Senate Republican leaders appeared unconcerned. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) were among the 35 Republicans who joined in the most significant legislative rebuff of Bush's presidency.

Lawmakers said they would take up the farm law's trade section as a separate bill and pass it after their Memorial Day break.

An enrolling clerk dropped the section, which includes international food aid programs, as the measure was being sent to the White House.

House Democratic leaders did push the entire farm bill back through the House again yesterday, in case they decide to start the process over again. But that appeared doubtful after the Senate's action.

Citing the Supreme Court's 1892 decision in Field v. Clark, House parliamentarian John Sullivan released a statement yesterday saying that "the law that would result from a bicameral override of the President's veto on H.R. 2419 would be the text that was presented to the President on parchment, notwithstanding its omission of the congressionally intended [trade] title."

Lastly, from Congress Daily:  "White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said the administration is treating the bill as law, although he continued to criticize its provisions."


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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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