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Farmers National
 
Special thanks to Farmers National for their continued support of excellence in land knowledge and professional connections as we move into 2014! They will continue to be a Platinum Sponsor in 2014 and are a 2014 Land Conference Partner.

  

DC Updates

 

Government Affairs

Update 4/18/2014  "How's My Waterway" Now More User-Friendly

App Lets Users Check Health of Waterways Anywhere in the US

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released an enhanced version of “How’s My Waterway,” an app and website to help people find information on the condition of thousands of lakes, rivers and streams across the United States from their smart phone, tablet or desktop computer.

The How’s My Waterway app and website, http://www.epa.gov/mywaterway, uses GPS technology or a user-entered zip code or city name to provide information about the quality of local water bodies. The new version of the site includes data on local drinking water sources, watersheds and efforts to protect waterways, as well as a map-oriented version of “How’s My Waterway” designed for museum kiosks, displays and touch screens, available at: http://watersgeo.epa.gov/mywaterway/kiosk/.

“Communities and neighborhoods across the U.S. want to know that their local lakes, rivers and streams are healthy and safe to enjoy with their families, and providing that information is a priority for EPA,” said acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water Nancy Stoner. “The enhanced version of ‘How’s My Waterway’ provides easy, user-friendly access to the health of the places we swim, fish and boat, where we get our drinking water, and what is being done to curb water pollution. People can get this information whether researching at a desktop or standing streamside looking at a smart phone.”

The enhanced version includes new data and improvements based on user feedback to the original site, including localized information on:
• The waterways that supply drinking water to communities.
• The health of watersheds and organizations working to protect watersheds.
• Permits that limit pollutant discharge into waterways.
• Efforts to restore waterways to protect and improve fish habitats by the National Fish Habitat Partnerships.

Here’s how to use “How’s My Waterway”:

• SEARCH: Go to http://www.epa.gov/mywaterway and allow GPS technology to identify the nearest streams, rivers or lakes or enter a zip code or city name.

• REVIEW: Instantly receive a list of waterways within five miles of the search location. Each waterway is identified as unpolluted, polluted or unas¬sessed. A map option offers the user a view of the search area with the results color-coded by assessment status.

• DISCOVER: Once a specific lake, river or stream is selected, the How’s My Waterway app and website provides information on the type of pollution reported for that waterway and what has been done by EPA and the states to reduce it. Additional reports and technical information is available for many waterways. Read simple descriptions of each type of water pollutant, including pollutant type, likely sources and potential health risks.

• EXPLORE: Related links page connects users to popular water information on beaches, drinking water and fish and wildlife habitat based on a user’s search criteria.

 

Update 4/16/2014 Health Care: Practitioners Not Employees

New federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) regulations make clear that real estate sales associates are considered independent contractors and not employees, and thus not to be counted as employees under "Shared Responsibility for Employers" provisions of the health care law. Previous ACA regulations were silent on the status of real estate practitioners and NAR last year requested their status be explicitly deemed independent contractors.  For more info contact Evan Liddiard, 202-383-1083. 

 

Update 4/3/2014 Congress Set to Extend Special Tax Brakes

The Senate Finance Committee is working to retroactively extend several tax breaks that expired on January 1, 2014. The committee chairman indicates that since tax reform may not happen before the November Congressional elections, may businesses and Americans will miss out on many important tax breaks. 

Read the press release.

 

Update 4/3/2014 USDA Resources on the Agricultural Act of 2014

The Agricultural Act of 2014 impacts every American and millions of people around the world. Read the USDA's progress reports or watch videos from Agricultural Secretary. 

The bill was signed into law on February 7, and will remain in force through 2018 or beyond. USDA provides resources on the highlights and economic implications in crop commodity programs, dairy and livestock, conservation, nutrition, rural development, research and extension, energy, crop insurance, specialty crops, organic agriculture, and beginning farmers and ranchers. See these overviews from the Economic Research Center of the USDA.

 

Update 4/3/2014 Clean Water Act 

WAC Talking Points on Release of the (Waters of the United States) WOTUS Rule

Interpretive Rule Governing Exemptions for Farming/Ranching Summary

Critical Concerns with the Proposed "Waters of the U.S." Rule

 

Update 3/28/2014 Institute Signs on to Letter to FAA Administrator on the benefits of Unmanned Aircraft Systems

The Institute signed onto a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Huerta on the benefits of drones and how the publication  of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) is missing a critical piece. As each day passes that commericial integration is delayed, the US continues to fall behind. 

Read the full letter.

 

Update 3/28/2014 Five Facts on How the Farm Bill Can Help Wetlands and Other Important Landscapes

1.  Wetlands provide valuable habitat for wildlife, protect against flooding and improve water quality – among many other benefits.

2.  Conservation easements offered by NRCS enable farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to set aside and protect wetlands and other crucial landscapes on working agricultural lands.

3.  More than 2.7 million acres were enrolled in the former Wetlands Reserve Program, WRP, in its 21-year history.

4.  WRP was merged with two other easements programs, the Grassland Reserve Program and Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program, to form one: the Agricultural Conservation Easements Program, or ACEP. ACEP has two components; agricultural land easements and wetland reserve easements.

5.  Learn more about ACEP and the other conservation easement program, the Healthy Forests Reserve Program, by visiting www.nrcs.usda.gov/FarmBill.

 

Update 3/21/2014 Flood Insurance Bill Signed Into Law

On March 21, the administration signed into law the "Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act." The bipartisan measure repeals FEMA's authority to increase premium rates at time of sale or new flood map, and refunds the excessive premium to those who bought a property before FEMA warned them of the rate increase. Premium increases are limited to 18% annually on newer properties and 25% for older properties. 

View NAR's section by section analysis of the measure.

 

Update 3/19/2014 Busting Myths about the FAA and Unmanned Aircraft-Update

The FAA received an overwhelming response to the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Mythbusters February 26, web item.  In response to inquiries, the FAA provides additional information on UAS operations and the regulations that apply to those operations.

Read common myths and the clarifying facts.

 

Update 3/13/2014 Flood Insurance Bill Clears Congress

The Senate voted Thursday, 72-22, to approve bipartisan legislation that would block dramatic increases in premiums paid by some property owners under the federal flood insurance program. The bill will be sent to President Obama who is expected to sign it. 

Read the NAR press release

 

Update 3/6/2014  Livestock Producers Affected by Severe Weather Urged to Keep Good Records

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Juan M. Garcia, today repeated his appeal to livestock producers affected by natural disasters such as the drought in the West and the unexpected winter storm in the upper Midwest to keep thorough records. This includes livestock and feed losses, and any additional expenses that are a result of losses to purchased forage or feed stuff.  

Read the full press release.

 

Update 3/4/2014  Realtors® Applaud House Passage of Bipartisan Flood Insurance Affordability Bill

The following is a statement by National Association of Realtors® President Steve Brown:

“The Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, H.R. 3370, passed overwhelmingly by the U.S. House today, is a responsible and balanced solution to the dramatic flood insurance rate increases unintentionally triggered by the Biggert-Waters reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program.

“As the leading advocate for homeownership and housing issues, NAR applauds this bill, which protects homeowners from the drastic premium increases that went into effect on October 1, 2013, and holds the Federal Emergency Management Agency accountable for any flood insurance policy changes.

“Homeowners nationwide, on the coasts and also inland, who are experiencing financial hardship because of extreme and sudden premium increases will feel immediate relief from this bill, which ensures a slow and steady phase in of risk-based increases.

Read the full press release.  

 

Update 3/4/2014  House passes Flood Insurance Bill with Amendments

On March 4, 2014, the House voted 306-91 to approve the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act (H.R. 3370) with amendments. The House amendments further reign in and hold the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) accountable for the Biggert-Waters implementation issues. 

 

Updates 3/4/2014 USDA Guide to the new Farm Bill Conservation Programs

See the USDA quick summary of changes made to conservation programs in the new Farm Bill. These programs are administered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.  The new Farm Bill streamlines conservation programs that enable farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to get assistance.

 

Update 2/26/2014 A House GOP proposal for tax reform is  dead on arrival

 

Update 2/26/2014 The House Ways and Means Committee chaired by Dave Camp released a discussion draft, today, for taxation reform. 

Here are some highlights of the plan:

 

  • It proposes three tax brackets, down from the current seven — 10%, 25%, and 35%. The 35% level would start at incomes above $400,000 for individual filers and at $450,000 for joint filers.
  • It would increase the standard deduction to $11,000 for individuals and $22,000 for married couples.
  • It would simplify six family tax benefits to three. For example, the Earned Income Tax Credit would be turned into a payroll tax exemption.
  • It would lower the U.S. corporate tax rate to 25%, something supported by the White House.
  • It would end a break that lowers taxes on so-called carried interest income for private-equity managers.
  • It would slash 15 education-related tax breaks into five.

 

View the full discussion draft here

View the NAR press Release that was distributed in response to this draft.

 

Update 2/24/2014 House to Vote on Flood Insurance

The House is scheduled to vote up-or-down on an amended version of H.R. 3370, the Flood Insurance Affordability Act, during the first week of March. The original bill text has been stripped and replaced by substitute language that considerably strengthens the bill. The substitute bill will be considered under an expedited set of “suspended rules” procedures that limits debate and amendments, and requires a 2/3 majority to pass. This is a critical vote on a top NAR member priority.  We cannot predict the fall-out if this vote fails. Read more.

 

Update 2/24/2014 Letter to House members on tax reform discussion of House Ways and Means Committee

The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) distributed a letter to all House Members today re-emphasizing its position on vital tax provisions that are being considered for revision by the House Ways and Means Committee which is chaired by Dave Camp.  A draft of the tax reform discussion of this Committee is likely to come out on Wednesday of this week.  According to Evan M. Liddiard, CPA, Senior Policy Representative, Federal Taxation National Association of REALTORS®, no changes or enactment are likely to occur in 2014.  However, NAR is "being heard."

The Government Affairs Committee of the REALTORS® Land Institute and its Government Affairs Liaison through NAR, Russell Riggs, have been actively involved in discussions regarding this.  If you have questions or information to share, please contact George Harvey, Government Affairs Committee Chair, at george@theharveyteam.net

View the letter.

 

Update 2/17/2014 Report from Chuck Wingert, ALC, on Land Improvement Contractors of America meetings on Capitol Hill

 

Update 2/11/2014 EPA Revises Permitting Guidance for Using Diesel Fuel in Oil and Gas Hydraulic Fracturing

WASHINGTON-- Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released revised underground injection control (UIC) program permitting guidance for wells that use diesel fuels during hydraulic fracturing activities. EPA developed the guidance to clarify how companies can comply with a law passed by Congress in 2005, which exempted hydraulic fracturing operations from the requirement to obtain a UIC permit, except in cases where diesel fuel is used as a fracturing fluid.

EPA is issuing the guidance alongside an interpretive memorandum, which clarifies that class II UIC requirements apply to hydraulic fracturing activities using diesel fuels, and defines the statutory term diesel fuel by reference to five chemical abstract services registry numbers. The guidance outlines for EPA permit writers, where EPA is the permitting authority, existing class II requirements for diesel fuels used for hydraulic fracturing wells, and technical recommendations for permitting those wells consistently with these requirements. Decisions about permitting hydraulic fracturing operations that use diesel fuels will be made on a case-by-case basis, considering the facts and circumstances of the specific injection activity and applicable statutes, regulations and case law, and will not cite this guidance as a basis for decision.

Although developed specifically for hydraulic fracturing where diesel fuels are used, many of the guidance’s recommended practices are consistent with best practices for hydraulic fracturing in general, including those found in state regulations and model guidelines for hydraulic fracturing developed by industry and stakeholders. Thus, states and tribes responsible for issuing permits and/or updating regulations for hydraulic fracturing may find the recommendations useful in improving the protection of underground sources of drinking water and public health more broadly

 

Update 2/7/2014 Farm Bill Signed into law-Summary or Full Legislation

 

Update 2/4/2014 Senate Approves Farm Bill

Today, the U.S. Senate passed a nearly $1 trillion farm bill 68-32. The measure, after two years of negotiations, is now headed to the White House for final approval. If the administration approves, the measure will be signed into law.  Last week, the bill was approved by the U.S. House 251 to 166.

To learn more, read the Washington Post article Senate sends farm bill to Obama. 

Farm Bill Summary

Full Farm Bill Legislation

 

Update 1/30/2014 Senate Passes Flood Insurance Bill

The United States Senate voted 67-32, yesterday to approves the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act (S. 1926).

The legislation calls for a four-year timeout on rate increases triggered either by a property's sale or a flood map update for a property with previously grandfathered rates. The bill also creates a flood insurance advocate within the Federal Emergency Management Act (FEMA) to investigate home owner complaints of multiple different or excessive rate quotes.

The bipartisan measure heads to the House of Representatives. More. 

 

Update 1/29/2014 Farm Bill Passes in House, Sent to Senate for Final Approval 

After three years of negotiations, the United States House of Representatives approved a $956,400,000,000 farm bill today. The measure passed 251 to 166. The legislation makes significant changes to the nation's farm support programs, and cuts billions of dollars in federal food stamp aid.

This Friday, the Senate is expected to give final approval and then send to the White House to be signed into law. The bill, nearly two years behind schedule, continues the congressional tradition of marrying the nation's agricultural policy with money for the federal food stamp program, which usually accounts for 80 percent of the bill's funding.

The bill authorizes the end of direct government payments made to farmers, revamps and consolidates dozens of federal conservation programs, tweaks several subsidy programs for the nation's crops, and cuts billions of dollars in federal food stamp money. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the measure is expected to cut federal spending by $16 billion over the next decade.

Farm Bill Summary

Full Farm Bill Legislation

 

Update 1/23/2014 "Today in Energy" Brief

The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s new “Today in Energy” brief looks at what’s behind the low propane inventories and high propane prices in the Midwest.

“With the onset of severely cold weather seen over the past weeks, propane supplies in the Midwest are extremely tight. The Midwest spot price of propane at Conway, Kansas, has spiked far above the Gulf Coast spot price at Mont Belvieu, Texas. The high propane prices in the Midwest are the result of both increased demand for crop drying in November and increased demand for space heating in the current cold weather.” EIA’s Today in Energy

alt

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Thomson Reuters

Note: PADD denotes Petroleum Administration for Defense Districts; HGL refers to hydrocarbon gas liquids

The “Today in Energy” brief was posted Thursday on EIA’s website (www.eia.gov) .

If you  have follow-up questions, you can contact the EIA analyst who wrote the brief: Mason Hamiltonat 202-586-7105, Thomas.Hamilton@eia.gov

 

Update 1/23/2014 USDA Announces Investments in Business and Rural Economic Development

Funding will help create jobs, provide technical assistance

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA is investing in rural businesses to help create jobs and spur economic development.

"These investments will help businesses expand, help rural communities grow their economies and help support the community-based development goals of the Obama administration," Vilsack said. "USDA is providing loans and grants to our local partners who can leverage this money with funds from other sources for projects that will have broad economic impacts.

The funding is being provided through USDA's Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant (REDLG) program. Under this program, USDA provides zero-interest loans to utilities that lend funds to local businesses for projects to create and retain employment in rural areas. These revolving loan funds broaden the program's reach and create a multiplier effect for its impact.

Read the full press release.

 

Update 1/17/2014  Letter to Senate Finance Committee on Tax Reform Discussion Draft

The REALTORS® Land Institute officially signed onto a letter to the Senate Finance Committee stressing the severe, widespread effects the Committees cost recovery and accounting tax reform discussion draft letter could have on U.S. real estate activity. 

The proposed reforms could reduce real estate investment and development, ultimately lower real estate values and crippling the industry's ability to create new jobs.

Read the full letter.

 

Update 1/10/2014 FAA Moving Forward on Drone Policy

The FAA has taken another important step in developing a policy that will allow Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs) to operate in the U.S. airspace by choosing six demonstration sites  around the country. These congressionally-mandated test sites will conduct critical research into the certification and operational requirements necessary to safely integrate UAS into the national airspace over the next several years.  In selecting the six test site operators, the FAA considered geography, climate, location of ground infrastructure, research needs, airspace use, safety, aviation experience and risk.

The information and data collected through these demonstration sites will be integrated into a proposed rulemaking, which is scheduled for release late in 2014.  FAA was tasked by Congress in 2012 to develop a regulatory program that integrates UASs into the U.S. airspace by 2015, while addressing issues related to safety, national security and privacy.   Press Release.

 

Update 1/10/2014 Broad Based Real Estate Coalition Comments on Senate Tax Reform Discussion Draft 

In November, 2013, Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) released a tax reform discussion draft addressing cost recovery and tax accounting.  This discussion draft included several proposals that would be devastating to commercial real estate, including:

  • Lengthening the depreciable life of real property to 43 years;
  • Repealing section 1031 like-kind exchanges;
  • Taxing gains on the sale of depreciable real property at ordinary income rates instead of the current-law 25% rate, to the extent of all prior depreciation;
  • Repeal of the section 179D tax deduction for energy efficient buildings.

A broad-based real estate industry coalition commented on this draft listing of proposed tax reforms.  The primary message is that these kinds of tax increases on real estate ownership and investment would have a chilling effect on real estate activity, lower real estate values, and stifle the real estate industry’s ability to continue creating new jobs just as the economic recovery shows signs of picking up steam.  While the Coalition applauded the objective of creating a modern, simpler, and fairer tax system to jumpstart economic growth, the proposals put forward would neither promote tax neutrality nor stimulate job growth in the real estate sector, which contributes nearly one-fifth to our Nation’s GDP.  On the contrary, if enacted in their current form, the proposals threaten to derail the main engine of the economic recovery, real estate activity and investment. 

In the letter, the Coalition recognized the need for reform.  “The members of our organizations look forward to working with the Committee in the weeks and months ahead to ensure that tax reform helps strengthen the economic recovery and spurs job creation by removing unnecessary tax obstacles to real estate investment and activity.”

 

Update 12/30/2013 FAA Selects Unmanned Aircraft Systems Research and Test Sites

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today announced the selection of the six public entities that will develop unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) research and test sites around the country. These congressionally-mandated test sites will conduct critical research into the certification and operational requirements necessary to safely integrate UAS into the national airspace over the next several years. Read more.
 

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