Bennet Introduces Amendments to Farm Bill to Improve Agricultural Lands Easement Program

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet has introduced two amendments with Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) to the 2012 Farm Bill to further improve the proposed new Agricultural Lands Easement (ALE) program.  Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) is a cosponsor of both amendments.

During the committee process Bennet worked to enhance conservation easement programs by consolidating programs and providing flexibility to allow more producers and land owners to take advantage easements.  As part of those efforts, the proposed ALE program would consolidate the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection program and much of the Grassland Reserve program.

“Over the last two years, I traveled across the state to hear from Coloradans about how the Farm Bill can work better for them,” Bennet said. “Farmers and ranchers routinely said that conservation of their land and natural resources is a priority. These amendments will help allow them preserve their farm and ranchland for years to come.”

Recently Bennet traveled to Palisade, CO to celebrate the completion of several conservation easements in the area. These agreements would become more commonplace across the West under Bennet’s amendment.

One amendment seeks to ensure that farmers and ranchers have the proper incentives and legal clarity to enter into an easement agreement. The ALE program is designed to help purchase conservation easements on working agricultural lands. These easements ensure farming and ranching lands retain their undeveloped character.

The second amendment would restore the cost-share formula established in 2008 for the purchase of conservation easements under the Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (FRPP). This will ensure regional equity for states looking to participate in conservation projects.

The Senate is scheduled next week to continue debating the Farm Bill, which will reauthorize agricultural and conservation programs for five years.  Bennet is the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Conservation, Forestry and Natural Resources.