Farm Bill continued . . . . . . . .


Regarding EQIP, the payment cap is $300,000 over 6 years.  For projects of special environmental significance, the cap may be raised by the Secretary to $450,000.


Also discussed was the sodsaver provision, which will apply only to the Prairie Pothole region and restrict access to Crop Insurance for 5 years.  Governors must opt into the program.


Amendments offered regarding the Grassroots Sourcewater Protection Program and a CRP “swap” proposal were rejected.


Regarding Forestry, the Conferees announced an agreement of $39 million for the Healthy Forest Reserve Program.


Overall, the Conservation Reserve Program Cap will be lowered to 32 million acres, with the financial savings from reduced enrollment redirected to working lands conservation programs.  Increased funding for EQIP and the Conservation Stewardship Program (revised CSP to be based on acreage enrollment of 13 million acres per year), and Farmland Protection.  Additional funding provided to allow the Wetlands Reserve Program and the Grasslands Reserve Program to continue.  And continuation of the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program.

As part of the “reform” that is continually discussed by the White House and others, there has been an effort to focus all programs and funding on farmers and farming operations.  There have been continued discussions on the Adjusted Gross Income cap and payment limitations.  It is expected that there may be a payment limitation of $50,000 for all conservation programs, except as outlined above.  A lower AGI may apply to both Commodity and Conservation payments, but an official notice of this decision has not been given yet.  Also it is expected programs will be focused specifically at farmers, restricting access of other entities/land into conservation programs.


In addition, the conservation/forestry tax related elements that will be finalized next week include:


Self Employment Tax Relief for Retired and Disabled Farmers receiving Conservation Reserve payments; permanent deduction for Endangered Species Act expenditures; extension of the conservation easement deduction; forest conservation bonds; and maximum tax rate for qualified timber sales and timber REIT Modernization.              


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