Today, Congress begins the month-long August recess while important work remains to be done in Washington, D.C. While much progress has been made to reauthorize the Farm Bill this summer, legislators left town without finishing their work on this piece of legislation that is vitally important for farmland conservation.
This week, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) indicated plans for a nutrition bill that would cut $40 billion from programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC). The proposed cuts are $20 billion above what was proposed by the House Agriculture Committee and ultimately rejected by the full House. These cuts are widely viewed as unrealistic and decrease chances for a farm bill agreement between the House and Senate. House leadership has not yet indicated when the nutrition bill would be considered, nor has House leadership indicated when conferees to a Farm Bill conference committee would be named.
The Senate moved forward yesterday by naming conferees. Senators that will participate are Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Senator Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Ranking Member Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Senator John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Senator John Hoeven (R-N.D.).
Tax Code Reform Expected This Year, Enhanced Tax Deduction Bill Introduced in House
Activity continues to increase surrounding a major overhaul of the U.S. tax code later this fall. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) have been touring the country collecting ideas for tax reform.
American Farmland Trust, working with our conservation partners, helped Congressman Jim Gerlach (R-Penn.) and Congressman Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) in recently introducing the Conservation Easement Incentive Act which would permanently extend the enhanced conservation easement tax deduction. American Farmland Trust President Andrew McElwaine praised the legislation and called for Congress to quickly extend the tax benefit.
American Farmland Trust continues to identify opportunities for farmland protection in tax reform. Stay tuned in the weeks ahead for news on additional tax legislation.
Harden, Bonnie Confirmed by Senate
The U.S. Senate this week confirmed the nominations of Krysta Harden as Deputy Secretary of Agriculture and Robert Bonnie as Undersecretary of Natural Resources and Environment. Both nominations were swiftly considered and approved by the Senate Agriculture Committee in July.
Before serving as Deputy Secretary, Harden served as Chief of Staff to Secretary Tom Vilsack and Bonnie served as Secretary Vilsack’s Senior Advisor on environmental issues