Flirty cow

Cattle Farm on the Lowell Dollar Easement in SW GA.

On February 7th, President Obama signed the Farm Bill into law and it was a win and a wait and see for Land Trusts.

The good news is the new Agricultural Lands Easement program which will provide grants to purchase conservation easements that permanently restrict development on important farmland and reward landowners who participate in the program with permanent tax breaks. These voluntary agreements will ensure that farm land continues to be an important  and growing  part of  local economies. Properly managed working ranch lands and farms also protect important habitats for fish and wildlife and the quality and cleanliness of rivers and streams.

The big unanswered question in the bill is the tax incentives for easement donors. The enhanced incentives expired at the end of December 2013.  Those  incentives were part of the 2006 Pension Protection Act, a bill that established new funding requirements for certain retirement plans. The bill increased tax deductions people can take for donating conservation easements from 30% of their adjusted gross income in any year to 50 percent. If a donor qualified as a farmer or rancher, then up to 100% of income could be deducted.

There is still hope among some members of Congress to reinstate the old incentive. In the last month, more congressional members have signed on to co-sponsor House Resolution 2807, and  Senate Bill 526 that will make the enhanced incentives permanent. Right now the bill is stuck in committee.

Let your representative or senator know how you feel. Call the Capitol switchboard number (202-224-3121) and ask for the staffer handling agricultural issues.