Farm Bill a Victory for Pa.
Mon, Jun 2nd 2008, 10:57. Filed under News Releases.
Extended Conservation Tax Incentive Offers Benefits Across Income Levels
Pittsburgh, PA – June 2, 2008. On May 22, Congress voted to extend significant tax incentives for landowners who donate voluntary conservation easements to protect important wildlife habitats, significant open spaces, forests and agricultural land. The incentives had expired December 31, 2007, but have been restored, retroactive to the beginning of 2008, and will last through 2009. These provisions were part of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, also known as the farm bill. This extension will help advance the longstanding and effective use of this conservation tool in Western Pennsylvania.
As a result, conservation easement donors can continue to deduct up to 50 percent of their adjusted gross income in any year (up from 30 percent), and, if most of their income is from farming, ranching or forestry, they can deduct up to an amount equal to all of their income. In addition, the number of years over which a donor can take those deductions has increased from six years to 16 years, an option that allows people from varying income levels to benefit.
“Donating a conservation easement was something we had planned to do for some time,” said Ken Gfroerer, an easement donor from the Ligonier Valley. “The farm bill tax incentives created a very attractive situation that encouraged us to strike while the iron was hot.” Ken and his wife, Lisa Smith, took advantage of these incentives in December 2007 when they donated a 51-acre conservation easement in Cook Township, Westmoreland County to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.
Greg Socha, associate vice president of Land Conservation and Stewardship for the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC) explains, “conservation easements, also known as voluntary conservation agreements, are legal agreements permanently limiting uses of land. The agreements are made between a willing landowner and a nonprofit land trust or local government and keep the land on the tax rolls, preserving private property rights and maintaining the ability to sell or pass land on to heirs. The tax law also protects the public interest by adopting stronger land appraisal standards and penalties for appraisers who fail to follow those standards. Voluntary conservation agreements are an important tool for land conservation.”
The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, which began its easement program in 1978, now holds 117 voluntary conservation easements protecting more than 30,000 acres of land in Western Pennsylvania. Voluntary conservation agreements give individual landowners the opportunity to conserve clean water and natural areas that are important to them and their communities.
This extension of the provisions provides landowners with additional incentives to work with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and other land trusts to protect resources for future generations while keeping land in private ownership--preserving revenue for local schools and municipalities, and providing cost-effective conservation. WPC is prepared to assist landowners throughout the region with conservation of lands that meet organizational priorities and criteria with an emphasis in Bedford, Fulton, Erie, Venango, Crawford, Fayette, Westmoreland, Somerset, McKean, Warren and Elk counties.
Overall, the 2008 farm bill is a solid win for land and water conservation on several fronts. Not only did raw spending for conservation grow by $4 billion, but conservation’s percentage of the total farm bill also increased. The bill raises investment in two of the three most important conservation programs to Pennsylvania – the Farm and Ranchlands Protection Program and Environmental Quality Incentives Program. It also creates more opportunities for private forest landowners, by allowing them to apply for funds from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, authorizing a new community forestry and open space grant program, and fully funding the Healthy Forests Reserve Program.
To learn more about protecting land with a voluntary conservation easement, contact Greg Socha at the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy at 412-288-2777 (toll-free 866-564-6972) or via email at email@example.com.
For more information please see the Farm Bill FAQ.
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About the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy
To date, the Conservancy has protected nearly 225,000 acres of natural lands in Pennsylvania. Now in its 76th year, Pennsylvania’s first conservancy continues to partner with grassroots organizations to protect land, restore watersheds and save natural habitats.
The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC) preserves Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater®, which was designed in 1935 and entrusted to the Conservancy in 1963 by Edgar Kaufmann jr. A symbol of living in harmony with nature, Fallingwater is open to the public and offers a wide variety of educational programs to its more than 135,000 annual visitors.
Each year, WPC plants and maintains community gardens and greening projects throughout Western Pennsylvania. In 2007, WPC partnered with more than 5,300 volunteers and dozens of community organizations to plant 140 gardens in 19 western Pennsylvania counties.