On February 4, the U.S. Senate voted to send the 2014 Agricultural Act (the “2014 Farm Bill”) to the President, and on February 7, President Obama signed it.
The implications of the 949-page bill are still being analyzed, but there appears to be mixed news for a certain agricultural easement program which has benefitted a number of Florida farmers. The Wetlands Reserve Program (“WRP”), which purchases easements over wetlands on agricultural property, and provides cost-share for their restoration, has been combined with other agricultural easement programs (the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program and Grassland Reserve Program) into a larger, single program called the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (“ACEP”).
Previously, the WRP program had to obtain new funding with each Farm Bill cycle, but the 2014 Farm Bill establishes a funding level for ACEP beyond the five-year term of the 2014 Farm Bill. That funding, however, is for the ACEP program overall, and not allocated among the various easement programs. However, early drafts of the bill required that at least 40-50% of the funding go to easement programs other than WRP. This was an increase from about 30% in recent years, suggesting that there is political pressure to shift funding toward these other programs.
The Dean Mead Agribusiness Industry Team will continue to review developments arising from passage of the 2014 Farm Bill, and issue updates when appropriate. If you have any questions, contact Dennis Corrick in our Fort Pierce office at DCorrick@deanmead.com.