The $307 billion 2008 Federal Farm Bill is heading for the President's desk with veto proof majorities in the House (318-106) and Senate (85-15). More than 2/3 of this amount ($209 billion) is for food stamps and other nutrition programs, compared with $35 billion for agricultural commodities. Others will parse the wisdom or folly of this pile of pork and priorities, but here is what it holds for conservationists:
Conservation program spending increased by $6.6 billion;
Extends for 2 years the tax incentive for conservation easement donations retroactive to Jan 1, 2008 (which generally means a 50% reduction in AGI tax liability with up to 15 years to carry over the balance of the gift or bargain sale of a conservation easement).Doubles funding for Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (more than $1 billion over 5 years, an increase of $560 million over the previous Farm Bill) to protect agricultural lands from urban and suburban development pressure;
Increases funding for Environmental Quality Incentives Program and Conservation Stewardship Program to enhance and protect our natural resources;
Continues funding for Grassland Reserve and Wetlands Reserve programs, increasing by 1.22 million acres the authorization for enrollment in the Grassland program with increased rolls for non-profits;
Creates an Open Fields Program to encourage public access to private land for hunting and fishing as well as a Chesapeake Bay program to help restore and protect the Bay watershed;Creates a Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program that will provide federal 50/50 matching grants to local governments and qualified non-profit organizations across the country to acquire forests and open spaces for local ownership and management.A new qualified forest bond provision that would protect large forest ownerships near national forests.