Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Annual Tour honoring our Cooperator of the Year

On Saturday, August 25th, the Piscataquis County Soil and Water Conservation District (PCSWCD) along with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation District (NRCS) honored Sid and Rainie Stutzman of Stutzman’s Family Farm in Sangerville as the 2012 Outstanding Cooperator of the Year. The day began with introductions of the Stutzmans by Gordon Moore, Chair of the PCSWCD and a Maine District Forester.  

Sid talked about the various conservation practices they have implemented on the farm with help from some of the NRCS programs available to farmers. Sunny Stutzman spoke about the new Gothic arch cedar high tunnel that he designed under a Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) awarded to PCSWCD by NRCS. This high tunnel has been designed using a locally harvested product and locally available hardware, and is designed for use by farmers as well as backyard gardeners.
The high tunnel has wheels to make it portable. In this way the grower can move the high tunnel to a new location in order to rest and restore the soils after several seasons of use. Dave Power, District Conservationist for NRCS in Piscataquis County, spoke about available NRCS financial assistance programs.
The participants were given a tour of the CIG high tunnel as well as another high tunnel the Stutzmans bought with financial assistance through NRCS. There was a short tour of their fields and a question and answer segment regarding equipment that is used to produce the food which is sold at their farm stand and through Community Supported Agriculture.  A delicious lunch made with their farm grown produce was served while Caragh Fitzgerald, Extension Educator with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, discussed the findings of a cost benefits analysis on high tunnels and the importance of maintaining soil quality when growing crops in high tunnels.  
If you are interested in finding out more about the programs available from PCSWCD or NRCS, contact the USDA Service Center located in the Pine Crest Business Park at 42 Engdahl Drive, Dover-Foxcroft, Monday through Friday, 8am-4:30pm, call 564-2321 extension 3, or email info@piscataquisswcd.org. PCSWCD and NRCS are equal opportunity providers and employers.

Michaud Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Help Maine’s Family Farms & Forest Owners

Will help ensure land owners aren’t forced to sell due to estate tax bill

WASHINGTON, DC – Recently, Congressman Mike Michaud will join Diane Black (R-Tennessee) to introduce the Keep the Forest and Farm in the Family Act of 2012, which helps protect American farms, forests and ranches from the negative impacts of the estate tax. About 90% of Maine is covered in forestland, and 233,000 families own 5.7 million acres of the state’s forest. If families are forced to sell their forestland or harvest timber prematurely to pay the estate tax, Maine risks losing family-owned forests and the benefits they provide.

“This bill helps protect Maine livelihoods and ensures that families who want to maintain their working forests and farms will not be penalized for their efforts,” said Michaud. “I support a permanent solution to the estate tax. But we also need to amend current law so that family forest owners aren’t forced to sell their land when it changes hands from generation to generation.”

The bill introduced today would change two provisions in current law. First, the bill will amend a provision in current estate tax law called the “special use valuation.” Special use valuation allows an estate’s value to be reduced by as much as $1 million if certain criteria are met. This bill would ensure that harvesting timber in accordance with a forest management plan is considered consistent with maintaining a forest’s current use and permitted under special use valuation.

The second provision in the bill would increase the special use valuation exemption from the current level of $1 million to $5 million. As previously mentioned, this exemption reduces the value of the estate on which a forest owner, farmer or rancher would have to pay taxes. In some cases, this additional reduction in estate value would protect them from having to pay the estate tax (by reducing the value below the $5 million threshold in current law).

The forest products industry contributes over $4 billion to Maine’s economy, supporting more than 60,000 jobs directly and indirectly. Because 82% of family forest owners have annual household incomes of less than $100,000, families are often forced to sell or harvest timber prematurely when estate taxes come due. A fact sheet on Maine forest land can be found here.

Here is an example of a challenge that the Keep the Forest and Farm in the Family Act of 2012 could help resolve:

Example: Jo landowner inherits forest from his parents worth $6 million at fair market value. Jo can only exempt $5 million of this estate under current law (that allows all a $5 million exemption), so he must pay estate taxes on $1 million—which would be a $350,000 tax bill. Jo can’t afford this bill but he doesn’t want to sell the land and the timber isn’t ready for harvest. So Jo elects the special use valuation, agreeing to keep his forest as forest for 10 years. With this election, Jo reduced the value of the estate to $5 million, so he won’t have to pay estate taxes on it. Unfortunately, under current law, if Jo needs to harvest timber in the 10 year timeframe (say his neighbor has a pine beetle outbreak, and Jo wants to take preventive measures) he must pay all or a portion of the estate tax benefits he received under special use valuation plus the typical income or capital gains taxes.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Dexter Dover Area Towns in Transition DDATT Activities

What's coming up:
  • Sept 11, Tuesday:  Steering Group meeting, Dexter.  6 PM to 8 PM.  Abbott Mem Library. Come help organize how DDATT helps the community.
  • Sept 15, Saturday:  Wild Foods and Foraging workshop, Dexter.  9 AM to noon.  Meet at 9 AM at Abbott Mem Library basement.  Ram Das Singh is excited to share his knowledge of the area's wild foods and hopes this meeting can be the start of a regular group effort to help each other learn about the food around us.  Bring your experiences and enthusiasm, and dress according to the weather, because we hope to get outside if possible.  277-4221 Sam Brown or 270-3504 Ram Das
  • Sept 21-23, Fri Sat Sun:  Common Ground Country Fair, Unity.  9 AM to 5 PM
  • Sept 25, Tuesday: Steering Group meeting, Dexter.  6 PM to 8 PM.  Abbott Mem Library. Come help organize how DDATT helps the community.
  • Oct 5, Friday:  free movie night "You've Been Trumped", 7 -9 PM.  Abbott Mem Library Basement.  "This poignant documentary follows a determined group of Scottish locals who take on American business mogul Donald Trump when he tries to buy up an environmentally fragile stretch of coastland in Scotland to build a luxury golf resort."  Might be interesting to see any parallels to our current East/West Highway kerfuffel. 277-4221 Sam Brown
  • Oct 9, Tuesday: Freecycle Barn Build?, Dexter.  8 AM, Mid Maine Solid Waste station.  POSSIBLE beginning construction day of small barn at the Transfer Station to serve as home for freecycling (a place to take stuff that you don't want anymore but which is too good to throw in the dump).  Small group of construction-savvy individuals needed to get foundation and floor done (later stages can possible use more volunteers).  This Freecycle Barn project is inspired by the Town of Pittsfield's version, and we'll need volunteers to tend the Barn on Saturdays.  277-4221 Sam Brown and Bev Crockett, or 564-2256 Will Vandermast for more details.
  • Oct 9, Tuesday: Steering Group meeting, Dexter.  6 PM to 8 PM. Abbott Mem Library. Come help organize how DDATT helps the community.
  • Oct 13, Saturday:  Starting a Community Garden discussion in Dexter, 9 AM to noon.  Deb Burdin has been quietly working on getting some gardening space available for use by Dexter area people who don't have any, and she wants to share her ideas and hear yours.  Come prepared to make this long-discussed idea actually take shape! Linda Tisdale will facilitate the discussion for the group.  924-5172, Linda Tisdale.

Maine DEP, Board of Pesticides Control Sponsors Free Pesticides Disposal For Maine Homeowners, Family Farms

AUGUSTA- Maine's Board of Pesticide Control and Department of Environmental Protection are partnering to provide homeowners a free opportunity this fall to dispose of old pesticides that may be stockpiled on their properties. Required registration - the deadline for which is September 28 - is now open for the disposal day, which gives owners of homes and family farms and greenhouses the opportunity to safely and legally get rid of pesticides that have become caked, frozen, or otherwise rendered unusable, including those that are banned in the state. 

It's not uncommon for new owners of older homes or farms in Maine to discover they have inherited hazardous waste in the form of pesticides with old chemicals like DDT, lead arsenate, 2,4,5-T and chlordane left behind in barns, basements or garages.

While disposing of these chemicals can seem daunting, it's important for the protection of public, wildlife and environmental health they are dealt with properly and not tossed in the trash or down the drain where they can contaminate land and water resources, including drinking water.

"We urge people holding these chemicals to contact us immediately to register," says BPC Public Education Specialist Paul Schlein. "There will be four sites throughout the state where preregistered participants will be able to bring their obsolete pesticides and dispose of them conveniently and at no cost."

The collected chemicals go to out-of-state disposal facilities licensed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency where they are incinerated or reprocessed. Due to safety and regulatory requirements, disposal "drop-ins" are not allowed and so registration by the September 28 deadline is necessary. The BPC will contact registrants several weeks prior to that drive to inform them of their local collection date and location.

To register, get additional details or learn important information about the temporary storage and transportation of obsolete pesticides, go to http://www.thinkfirstspraylast.org or call the BPC at 287-2731.

Through their jointly-sponsored disposal events - which are funded entirely through pesticide product registration fees - BPC and DEP have kept about 90 tons of pesticides out of the waste stream since 1982.