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Federal Tax Treatment of Conservation Easements Under Fire
A recent Joint Committee on Taxation report suggests ending tax credits to individuals who have donated easements on land or historic property on which the owner still resides. The recommended reforms buried in the 430-page report could fundamentally change the federal tax treatment of conservation easements. AFT joined other partners in cautioning lawmakers about the devastating effects these tax changes could have on farmland protection and the future of farm viability.

Black Family Land Trust: Working to Preserve African American Resources through Land Ownership
As communities across the country struggle with the disappearance of farmers and their land, nowhere has this loss been greater than amongst African Americans. African American land ownership, which peaked at 19 million acres in 1910, had fallen to 2.1 million acres by the 2002 Census of Agriculture. According to Attorney Sandra Jones, a founding board member of the newly formed Black Family Land Trust (BFLT), the causes of the dramatic decline in ownership include economic pressures, sprawling development, discriminatory lending practices and the tradition of passing along land as heirs' property, in which control of land becomes highly divided after several generations of transferring ownership of farms equally amongst heirs. AFT's Southeast Director Gerry Cohn has been honored to serve on the board of directors of the BFLT, which is combining traditional land conservation tools with community economic development and community land trust techniques to address this crucial issue across the Southeast.

Farmers are the Best Hope for Changing Water Quality in the Chesapeake Bay
Cost-Effective Strategies for the Bay: 6 Smart Investments for Nutrient and Sediment Reduction, a report by the Chesapeake Bay Commission, has found that the most cost-effective techniques identified for improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay involve incentives for farmers to use good conservation practices. Five of the top six choices to reduce nutrient and sediment loads in the bay involve agriculture, including the use of nutrient management plans, conservation tillage and cover crops. The findings further underscore the impact of poorly planned urban development in the watershed. AFT is working on a pilot project with Maryland corn farmers that reduces nutrient applications while increasing farm income.

New Report Quantifies Sprawl's Impact on Wildlife
According to the report Endangered By Sprawl: How Runaway Development Threatens America's Wildlife, the rapid conversion of once-natural areas and farmland into subdivisions, shopping centers, roads and parking lots has become a leading threat to America's native plants and animals. In at least three dozen rapidly growing counties, most all found in the South and West, essential wildlife habitat will be all but gone within the next two decades unless development patterns are altered.

News Briefs from Around the Country
The first easement completed in the federal Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) protects 83 acres of grassland in Sumter County, South Carolina.

The Piedmont region of Virginia set a record in 2004 by protecting 23,790 acres of rural land through the use of conservation easements.

Gov. Bob Taft revised the Ohio platting law by signing Senate Bill 115, which closes the "five-acre loophole" that has permitted lot splits over five acres to be exempt from subdivision review.

In his budget message to the state legislature, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signaled his intention to protect farmland while meeting the state's housing shortage.

The Georgia House of Representatives unanimously passed HB 98, the Georgia Land Conservation Act.

New York Gov. George Pataki's executive budget for 2005-06 proposes to increase funding for the state's Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) from $125 million to $150 million.

Maine's Local Agricultural Development Task Force's recently released its report, Get Real — Get Local: Recommendations for Policies and Programs Needed to Support and Sustain Local Agriculture.


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