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Senate Expands Tax Incentives for Donated Easements
In November, the U.S. Senate passed a tax bill that did not include the ill-advised reforms affecting land conservation organizations that were suggested by the Joint Committee on Taxation in its January 2005 report. Instead, the bill includes expanded tax incentives for donated conservation easements. It extends the period during which deductions can be used from 6 to 16 years and raises the ceiling for deductions from 30 percent of the donor's adjusted gross income (AGI) to 100 percent of AGI for farmers and ranchers and 50 percent for other donors.

Protecting Agriculture and Habitat in Urbanizing Counties
American Farmland Trust is helping address the challenges faced by a top-producing, yet urbanized, agricultural county. In San Diego County, Calif., a team that includes AFT's consulting services group is creating the innovative Farming Program Plan: Farming in an Urban County. The plan will serve as a framework for an economically and environmentally sustainable farming industry. It includes an implementation manual that reflects the habitat value of farms for regional conservation. Input from landowners and other county stakeholders was gathered during three public outreach meetings hosted by the San Diego Farm Bureau and the U.C. Cooperative Extension/ Farm and Home Advisors.

Conservation Funding Cut Yet Again
The House and Senate recently approved the FY 06 Agriculture Appropriations Bill. The $100 billion bill decreases, by more than $460 million, spending for the mandatory farm bill conservation programs overseen by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). However, NRCS received a $6 million increase in funding for Conservation Technical Assistance, which enables NRCS field staff to assist farmers and ranchers with the development and implementation of conservation plans.

Much Ado About Kelo: Eminent Domain and Farmland Protection
AIn the case of Kelo v. the City of New London, the Supreme Court ruled the city could acquire land by eminent domain to make way for a private commercial development project that implements the city's economic development plan. Regardless of how the controversial decision is applied, the case has raised public awareness about—and legislators' willingness to address—eminent domain. Against this backdrop, there is an opportunity for farmland protection advocates to curb condemnation that could result in or drive farmland conversion.

AFT Anniversary Web Page Celebrates Fifth Generation Family Farm
Preserving the family farm has been a 125-year, five-generation effort by the McGinnis family in Baltimore County, Maryland, where pressure from development has become tremendous. In the early 1980s, the McGinnis family protected their farm through the Maryland Agriculture Land Preservation Foundation. With the combined effort of concerned neighbors and farmers, the program has reached the milestone of preserving 50,000 acres in the county.

It's Sweet and Easy to Support AFT
It's easy to support American Farmland Trust (AFT) this holiday season and the whole year through. Magnolia Bakery [PDF] on 401 Bleecker Street in New York City is donating five percent of their cupcake sales to AFT from December 1 to 23. I Grew up on a Farm is the perfect holiday gift and a book to keep for generations to come, and Keene Publishing is donating 15 percent of the list price to AFT for every copy sold. AFT also participates in the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) workplace giving program by automatic paycheck withdrawal. Designate our ID code, 0924 , on the CFC donation form and help save farmland year round. AFT is a member of the Better Business Bureau's National Charity Seal program.

News Briefs from Around the Country
New York State Agriculture Commissioner Nathan L. Rudgers announced the release of the Farmland Protection Program's Request for Proposals [PDF, 123KB].

The Southern New England Planner's Conference held in Newport, Rhode Island featured the insightful presentation, Seven Steps to Creating a Successful Local Farmland Preservation Program [PDF], by Phil Chester, Suffield (Conn.) town planner.

American Farmland Trust is participating in the "Saving Farms and Ranches in Fast Growing Communities" session at the New Partners for Smart Growth Conference being held in Denver, Colorado January 26-28, 2005.

 


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