From: Reuters
Published September 19, 2007 07:58 AM

Green Groups Seek More U.S. Funds For Land Stewards

WASHINGTON - Fourteen environmental groups asked the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday to help pay for land stewardship programs now that it may provide tax credits for land preservation.

Montana Democrat Max Baucus, chairman of the Finance Committee, unveiled the tax-credit idea on September 11. He said it effectively free up money for use the farm subsidy law being written this year.

"As you work to finalize your proposal, we also urge you to consider expanding the role of the Finance Committee to incorporate funding for the Conservation Reserve Program, Comprehensive Stewardship Incentives Program and Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program," said the groups in a letter to leaders of the Finance Committee.

"We believe the entire conservation title of the farm bill requires new funding ... at least three to four times larger than the highest amounts now being discussed by Finance to date."

Baucus has said landowners could be offered the choice of a tax credit or a cash payment when they participate in the Wetlands and Grassland Reserve programs, which preserve and restore land, or the Farm and Ranchlands Protection Program, which helps buy easements to prevent urban sprawl.

The Conservation Reserve pays landowners an annual rent to idle fragile land. The Stewardship Incentives Program pays farmers who make soil, water and wildlife conservation part of their daily operation. The wildlife incentives program helps pay the cost of improving wildlife habitat.

The green groups described the tax-credit approach as "creative." They cautioned that a heavy reliance on tax credits would not be fair to small farmers who may not have a large enough income to make use of a tax credit.

Among the groups signing the letter were the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Environmental Defense, National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club and the Izaak Walton League.

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