Congress Approves Expansion of Tax Incentives for Donated Conservation Easements
New land conservation tax benefits for family farmers and ranchers are included in recent legislation passed by the U.S Senate and House of Representatives. The bill, applicable for 2006-07 benefits, allows qualifying farmers and ranchers to deduct up to 100 percent of their income and includes other provisions that provide greater benefits for donating development rights to their land. "I know many ranchers who want to protect the land that they have lived and worked on for generations, but need some help to make it happen," said John Lunt, a family rancher and conservationist from Wyoming. "Better conservation tax incentives will help my friends and neighbors preserve their land without putting their family's economic future at risk." Take action today to urge the President to sign the Pension Protection Act of 2006 into law.
Drafting an Agricultural Renaissance
Taking a cue from 14th century Italy, states have drafted legislation that will help to revitalize and redevelop targeted areas. Michigan's agricultural processing renaissance zones, a variation of traditional commercial renaissance zones, are designed to attract new agricultural processing and value-added businesses to the state by providing tax exemptions, incentives and credits to encourage investment and job growth, along with adding additional markets for raw agricultural products. Currently, one ethanol plant operating in Michigan, with four more under construction—all of which utilize benefits provided by the agricultural renaissance zone designation. Colorado and Virginia are also targeting opportunities for agriculture in designated areas with agricultural enterprise development zones.
Protecting Farmland Is a Good Deal for Taxpayers
Even with a reduced assessment value, farmland contributes a surplus of funds in three Tennessee counties to help pay for public services such as schools and roads. This is the good news from recent Cost of Community Services (COCS) studies conducted by AFT for Blount, Tipton and Robertson counties in the state. The taxpayer bonus is an "added value" for communities with farmland, in addition to the other benefits that agricultural land provides, such as fresh food, open space, and protection of environmental resources.
New Final Rule for Federal Program
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) published an interim final rule for the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program [PDF] in the July 27, 2006 edition of the Federal Register. The rule seeks to clarify a number of program requirements, such as title standards, appraisals and impervious surfaces that have impacted the ability of cooperating entities to access FRPP funds. The official comment period runs through September 25, 2006. Visit AFT’s Web site in the coming weeks for a detailed response to the interim final rule.
Register Online Now for AFT's National Conference, Farming on the Edge: The Next Generation
With more than 40 workshops, keynote and film sessions, AFT's November 2006 national conference offers participants the tools needed to keep the land healthy, sustain local agriculture and protect farmland. Highlights include nationally renowned speakers, two bus tours, a mobile workshop, and Tuesday evening's "Let's Get Fresh" dinner. Register by September 15th to save $75 on a three-day registration.
Around the Country
State Secretaries and Commissioners of Agriculture from New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Virginia urged NRCS Chief Bruce Knight to consider certifying existing state farmland protection programs.
The Oklahoma legislature established HB 2655, the Oklahoma Farm to School Program, which will connect schools to fresh produce via local farms.
Governor M. Jodi Rell and the Connecticut Deptartment of Agriculture announced matching-grants awards worth $842,000. This year’s awards include grants for projects that develop or expand on-farm processing facilities; promote farmers’ markets and local farm products; and develop farm-friendly municipal regulations.
Virginia's Governor announced an ambitious goal for open-space and farmland preservation, proposing to preserve an additional 400,000 acres by 2010.
In California, the Councils of Government representing eight counties in the San Joaquin Valley have joined in an unprecedented effort to develop a regional "blueprint" intended to guide local land use planning and decision making.
Iowa's legislature reached the 2/3 majority vote required to override Governor Vilsack's veto of HF 2351. HF 2351 amends Iowa's condemnation law and includes several provisions relating to agricultural land.