WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) is supporting legislation that would permanently extend a federal tax provision that allows farmers and ranchers to benefit from voluntarily placing property into conservation easements.
Cochran is co-sponsoring the Rural Heritage Conservation Extension Act (S.339) to make permanent the provision allowing maximum tax deductions for charitable contributions of conservation easements. The existing benefit expires at the end of the year.
“Private landowners in Mississippi have voluntarily set aside thousands of acres for conservation purposes to protect natural resources and significant properties. Our state is better off for it,” Cochran said. “The Rural Heritage Conservation Extension Act is needed to extend the tax incentives that can be used by farmers and ranchers when they enter into a conservation easement agreement.”
A conservation easement is a legal agreement between a private landowner and a government agency or nonprofit conservation organization. Under these agreements, landowners retain legal title to their property but agree to allow specific conservation uses and limit other development activities.
In addition to making the tax deduction permanent, S.339 would allow for an increased maximum tax deduction from 30 percent to 50 percent. It would allow charitable contributions for up to 100 percent of annual income for conservation easement donations, and unused deductions could be carried forward for up to 15 years. The bill been referred to the Senate Finance Committee.
The legislation was introduced by Senators Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), who are respectively the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee.
In Mississippi, these easements have been established in forested areas, agricultural lands and riparian areas, providing opportunities to improve wildlife habitats and preserve natural spaces. The Mississippi Land and Trust, Mississippi Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Ducks Unlimited Inc., Mississippi River Trust and other non-profit groups have worked to facilitate conservation easement agreements in the state.
Source: Sen. Thad Cochran’s Office