Policy Journal

06:16PM Jul 29, 2008
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Disaster Buy-In Deadline
You can still qualify for disaster aid under the permanent disaster assistance component in the new farm bill. If you don't have crop insurance or non-insured crop disaster assistance (NAP) coverage for the land for which assistance is being requested, you have until Sept. 16 to pay a buy-in fee—$100 per crop but no more than $300 per producer per administrative county or $900 total per producer for all counties less any previously paid fees for Catastrophic (CAT) and/or NAP.

CRP Action in the Spotlight
Not only is the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) one of the most popular conservation efforts by USDA, it has also developed into a headline-grabbing program.

Haying and grazing halt: In late May, USDA announced it would allow producers to hay and graze up to 24 million acres of CRP. Contract holders wouldn't lose rental payments to hay or graze the ground; they'd just have to pay a $75 contract modification fee. They couldn't hay more than 50% of the ground or graze more than 75% of the acres, and the action had to take place after the wildfowl nesting season (primarily July 15 and Aug. 1) and be complete by Nov. 10.

The effort came to a grinding halt in early July, days ahead of when millions of acres could have been hayed or grazed. The National Wildlife Federation and six state affiliates got a court injunction on the action, halting any haying and grazing that had already started and any paperwork that was pending. A July 17 hearing was set in U.S. District Court. Web Extra: Read the Judge's Decision

Emergency grazing: The court case did not affect USDA's early July announcement to allow emergency grazing of CRP ground in flood areas. To use this option, you have to be in a county or contiguous to a county with a presidential disaster designation and receive county FSA office approval. You will lose 25% of your CRP rent on those acres. The states with counties that permit livestock grazing are Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

CRP rent treatment fix…for some: The new farm bill includes a "fix” for the tax treatment of CRP rents for certain taxpayers. If you recall, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued a determination that CRP payments were not rent when it came to retirees but hadn't fully put it into motion because there were expectations that lawmakers would issue legislation to reverse the IRS' thinking. The farm bill excludes CRP payments from self-employment income for purposes of the SECA tax for those who receive Social Security retirement or disability benefits. Treatment of CRP payments received by other taxpayers is unchanged. 

Web Extra

Precedent-Setting RFS Decision
Even before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) put the finishing touches on the regulation to increase the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), they received a request to waive the new mandate, which requires 9 billion gallons of ethanol to be used in 2008. Texas made the request April 25, and at press time, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson was poised to make the call on whether to grant the waiver request by July 23.

What did EPA look at when making the decision? "Any and all analyses that are being done or have been done,” Johnson says. "We see the need—to certainly have a statutory mandate—to increase the supply of renewable fuels. We also don't want to severely impact the economy of the United States, whether it's food or otherwise.”

Other considerations included possible "severe economic harm” and "if there are other conditions that would cause a waiver as defined by law,” Johnson says.

EPA had to consult with the Secretaries of Agriculture and Energy when making the decision; at press time the agencies didn't hint that they backed a change.

No other requests had surfaced as of mid-July, but Johnson indicated that the Texas request could potentially be the tip of the iceberg. "As we think through the process for this situation, we are mindful of the future and future processes so we can obey the statute and do due diligence to evaluate a waiver request, but also avoid the sort of endless requests and never be able to give that snapshot in time answer.”