Cliff or Launch Pad?

Insights from Ducks Unlimited CEO Dale Hall
At the eleventh hour and fifty-ninth minute of the 112th Congress, an agreement was reached between the Obama administration and the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to avoid going over the so-called "fiscal cliff," which purportedly would have resulted in a significant slowdown of the U.S. economy. But the agreement reached was only a partial solution.

One positive outcome for Ducks Unlimited and other nonprofit conservation organizations was that the tax credit for land and easement donations was extended through fiscal year 2013 and retroactively to the beginning of 2012. DU continues to support efforts that would make this enhanced tax deduction for conservation easements permanent rather than temporary. DU and other nonprofits were likewise fortunate that the "cap" on charitable giving was dropped from discussion in the agreement, meaning that donors will continue to receive the same tax incentives for their charitable contributions. 

The agreement also extended the Farm Bill through fiscal year 2013, with the expectation that a new Farm Bill will be hammered out in the next nine months. We are certainly pleased that the Farm Bill did not expire, which means that the price of milk will not reach $8 per gallon and that the Grassland Reserve Program (GRP), Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), and Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) are fully authorized through this fiscal year. However, the funding for these programs is not yet secured.

Indeed, these parts of the fiscal cliff deal addressed only the revenue side of the fiscal crisis and postponed for at least another two months the difficult task of reducing spending. The federal government is operating under a "continuing resolution," which funds agency operations through March 2013. Funding for the remaining six months (April through September) of the fiscal year will be tied to discussions that will include potential appropriation cuts to go along with the revenue increases in the fiscal cliff deal. Ducks Unlimited will continue to be a voice in these discussions as they relate to waterfowl conservation.

As part of the continuing resolution, funding for the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) was set at $35.5 million, an amount we believe to be the bare minimum of what should be appropriated for this extremely important program. As we've reminded our legislators time and again, for every $1 appropriated through NAWCA, DU and our partners bring an average of $3.70 in nonfederal funds to the table for conservation projects on the ground. This is a phenomenal win for the taxpayer and for the country. We will be making a lot of noise to ensure that this economically profitable program does not get lost in the budget shuffle!

The Farm Bill will also be in our sights as these budget talks continue. Our farm partners are not only a significant part of America's economic engine but also outstanding conservation land stewards. We will be fighting hard to ensure that GRP, CRP, and WRP are fully funded. You can expect to hear from me. I will ask you to contact your elected representatives as this debate continues and more information is available on these various proposals.

Over the past two years, DU's volunteers, members, supporters, and staff have risen to the occasion and made sure our voices were heard. I have no doubt that we will once again succeed. Let's ensure that what was a cliff becomes a launch pad for the future, and that conservation assumes the prominent role it deserves.

Dale Hall, 
Chief Executive Officer