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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

U.S.Congress Passes Land Conservation Tax Incentive for Family Farms and Ranches

June 2, 2008

(For more information visit or call (805) 544-9096.)

The hotly debated Farm Bill, which Congress enacted last month with an override of the President’s veto, renews a powerful tax incentive which has helped conserve a million or more acres of farms, ranches and natural areas across the US. The incentive had expired January 1st, but is now retroactive to the beginning of the year and will last through 2009.

“The new incentives are designed to benefit family farmers and ranchers of modest income by increasing tax benefits for voluntary conservation. Tax savings can then be used to supplement incomes or enhance agricultural operations. This is a great way to help keep valuable agricultural land in production” - Brian Stark, Executive Director, Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County.

The renewed incentive, which applies to a landowner’s federal income tax, will:
o- Raise the deduction a donor can take for donating a voluntary conservation agreement from 30% of their income in any year to 50%;
o- Allow farmers and ranchers to deduct up to 100% of their income; and
o- Increase the number of years over which a donor can take deductions from 6 to 16 years.

Landowner donations to conservation organizations, such as The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County, a local non-profit land trust, have resulted in millions of acres of working lands and natural areas being conserved for the future. Land conservation protects clean air, clean water, natural areas, local food sources, historic landscapes and scenic beauty.

Land Conservancy Conservation Director, Bob Hill states “Two recent Land Conservancy projects, a 55-acre donated easement along Graves Creek in Atascadero (2006) and another 150-acre easement donation located in the Templeton Gap (2007) are both a direct result of the initial conservation easement tax provisions. In addition, current negotiations to permanently protect 3,000 acres of ranch land adjacent to the Los Padres National Forest have weighed heavily on the extension of this incentive.”

The local Land Conservancy has protected more than 9,500 acres in San Luis Obispo County since 1984 and aims to nearly double that amount by the end of 2010. According to the Land Trust Alliance, land trusts in America have together saved more than 36 million acres from development, an area the size of New England.

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