Committees Move Ag Easement Bills

Riparian BufferOn May 6, two agricultural easement bills moved through committee:

  • The House Local Government Committee reported out House Bill 859 (Staats-R-Bucks) excluding from tax a transfer of a perpetual agricultural conservation easement as defined by the Agricultural Area Security Law.
  • The Senate Finance Committee reported Senate Bill 556 (McIlhinney-R-Bucks) which excludes from the Real Estate Transfer Tax a conservation easement in perpetuity having as its purpose preservation of open or agricultural land to the S., Commonwealth of PA, or to a 501( c)(3) organization which has as its purpose land preservation.

Budget Numbers (Still) Improving

budget paThe PA Revenue Department May 4 announced that collections in April exceeded expectations by $201 million.  This brings year-to-date revenues to $569.1 million above estimate.  This extra revenue was seen in Corporate Net Income Tax, Personal Property Tax, and Sales & Use Tax.  Two areas where revenues came in lower than anticipated were Real Estate Transfer Tax and cigarette/table games/liquor taxes.  This $569.1 million surplus may impact Budget negotiations between the Governor and General Assembly.

Other Senate Committee Agriculture Bill Updates

  • Senate Bill 720 sponsored by Aument (R-Lancaster) has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.  It would provide protection from civil liability for owners and operators of agritainment activities. Agritainment is defined as “tourism-related, recreational or educational activities located on farms in Pennsylvania such as corn mazes, pick-your-own crop harvests, hay rides and farm vacations.”  Because many activities involved in the agritainment business are frequently not covered by customary farm liability policies, farmers face a number of challenges in securing adequate coverage and face liability risks when opening up their land to the public.
  • Inheritance Tax exemption for family farm estate plans resulting in the transfer of a farm to family members is the substance of Senate Bill 580 (Gordner-R-Columbia) as a “clarification of Act 85” according to the sponsorship memo.  SB 580 was reported out by the Senate Finance Committee and re-referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
  • Without passage of Senate Bill 756 (Schwank-D-Berks) or similar legislation, First Industries which provides loan guarantees for farm credit institutions will sunset July 15, 2015.  SB 756 is in the Senate Community & Economic Development Committee.

USDA Extends Comment Period for Ag Conservation Easement

USDA_logoThe USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) announced that the deadline for public comment on the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) interim rule has been extended to May 28, 2015.  Comments should go to Public Comments, Docket Number NRCS-2014-0011, Regulatory & Policy Team, USDA NRCS, 5601 Sunnyside Building, 1-1112D, Beltsville, MD 20705 or electronically via regulations.gov.

Crop Insurance Self Certification Due June 1

USDA_logoAgricultural producers seeking Federal Crop Insurance subsidies in 2015 must verify that they are controlling erosion on vulnerable fields and protecting wetlands. This also applies to orchards and vineyards. Form AD-1026 must be on file with the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA): http://forms.sc.egov.usda.gov/efcommon/eFileServices/eForms/AD1026.PDF

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