Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) outlined his goals this week for the Senate Finance Committee to provide $8-10 billion for farm bill programs in the form of a trust fund for ag disasters, bonds and tax credits. The Senate Finance Committee will consider this package later this month. The package would provide:

  • Permanent ag disaster relief trust fund -- provide an ongoing program to offset farming income losses not covered by the crop insurance program.
  • Conservation tax credits -- participants in the Wetlands Reserve Program, the Grassland Reserve Program and the Farm and Ranchlands Protection Program currently receive cash payments for enrolling in these programs. The proposal would allow participants to receive tax credits instead.
  • Conservation Reserve Program -- would clarify that payments made to certain farmers participating in mandatory conservation activities are rental income, and not subject to self-employment taxes.
  • Rural development bonds -- creates a new category of tax credit bonds for projects such as rural electric and telemedicine, rural broadband and other rural economic development community projects.
  • Energy conservation tax incentives -- includes tax incentives for wind and other forms of alternative energy.

There is hope from many that this will help move the farm bill forward in the Senate.

-- P. Scott Shearer, Washington, D.C. correspondent