WASHINGTON, D.C.— Congressional negotiators have completed their latest draft of the farm bill, and they’ve tacked on an extension of an important payment for rural communities.
The Payment in Lieu of Taxes program, or PILT, sends federal payments to counties with large amounts of public land. It’s meant to make up for a loss of tax revenue, since the federally owned lands are nontaxable. Last year, Grand County received $894,534 in PILT funds. An extension of the program was in jeopardy after it was left out of the congressional 2014 omnibus spending bill, passed earlier this month.
Colorado Sens. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) lead a bipartisan push to add the PILT extension to the farm bill instead. On Monday, Jan. 27, they announced their efforts had been successful.
“Rural communities in Colorado and across the country rely on these critical resources to provide basic services like police and fire protection, and road maintenance,” Bennet said in a press release. “This extension means they can move forward with their budget and plan for the rest of the year.”
The last farm bill expired in December, and a 2014 bill was delayed with members of both the House and Senate debating food stamp and subsidy policies. An extension on the last farm bill is set to expire on Jan. 31.
The current draft of the five-year farm bill repeals some outdated programs and consolidates others, and would reduced the federal deficit by $24 billion. The PILT program extension, however, is only authorized for 2014.
Udall introduced bipartisan legislation earlier this month to permanently fund and authorize the program, which distributed roughly $400 million total last year, mostly to rural counties in the West. Bennet is an original cosponsor of the bill.
“This is a major victory, but I will keep fighting to fully fund the PILT program past 2014 and remove these funds from the annual uncertainty of the federal budget process,” Udall said in a press release.
Leia Larsen can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603.