October 05, 2007

FINANCE COMMITTEE SETS STAGE FOR SENATE FARM BILL DEBATE

Crapo Endangered Species incentives included in Ag tax package

Washington, DC - Idaho Senator Mike Crapo joined fellow members of the Senate Finance Committee in approving legislation intended to provide funds for Farm Bill spending. The measure, passed on a 17 to 4 vote, would also provide opportunities for private landowners and agricultural producers through tax incentives for alternative fuel production, conservation efforts, and endangered species recovery. Crapo's Endangered Species Recovery Act (ESRA) is now included in the agricultural tax package intended to be added to the Senate version of the new farm bill, marking the second time that the Finance panel has endorsed the Crapo model for landowner involvement in recovery efforts.

The Heartland, Habitat, Harvest and Horticulture Act of 2007 is the new legislative package that contains Crapo's tax incentives for landowners who agree to accelerate species recovery on a voluntary basis. The Act also establishes a trust fund for farm disaster relief, provides additional loan assistance for first-time farmers and ranchers, and provides more flexibility to popular conservation programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) and Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) by offering participants the option to choose cash payments or tax credits.

"The package offers tax incentives to help species and increases the flexibility for producers to participate in farm programs," Crapo said. "It also encourages the production of alternative fuels produced from the land. Small producers and qualified businesses will benefit by incentives to produce cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel."

Crapo also co-sponsored an amendment by Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Arkansas), which was included in the bill, allowing deductions on up to 60-percent of gains from some sales and exchanges of timber and modernizing real estate investment trust (REIT) rules for timber property. Crapo and Lincoln partnered earlier in introducing the original legislation offering landowner tax exemptions for accelerating species recovery on private lands.

Idaho specialty crop producers would benefit by new provisions to add early pest detection and surveillance activities to combat pest and disease threats to specialty crops.

The bill also includes a provision, co-sponsored by Crapo, which would shorten the depreciation period for farm equipment from seven years to five. This change will allow farmers to upgrade their equipment in a more timely way, without having to continue to use and carry outdated equipment on their books.

Committee members also approved a new free trade agreement with Peru that could benefit Idaho farmers and ranchers. "For example, the increased market access for U.S. dried peas, lentils, dried beans, beef, wheat, barley, dairy products and the careful accommodation of sugar concerns provided in this agreement is of particular importance to Idaho producers," Crapo added.

Passage of the Farm Bill spending measure by the panel allows the Senate Agriculture Committee to proceed with the underlying Farm Bill and fund the proposed improvements to conservation efforts, specialty crops programs, and other initiatives important to Idaho. Crapo, the Ranking Member of the Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Forestry, and Rural Revitalization, has pledged to use his unique position on both committees to ensure Idaho farmers and ranchers have a prominent seat at the table. "As the Idaho congressional delegation's representative on the Agriculture Committee, I have been working to make sure the bill is crafted to address the needs of Idaho's farm communities."

The Agriculture Committee is expected to mark up the Farm Bill in late October.