Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., has proposed a series of measures intended to provide tax relief and disaster assistance to farmers and ranchers as part of a revamped farm bill.

The proposal claims to free up $8 billion to $10 billion for a farm bill that already is estimated to cost $280 billion over the next five years. The current farm bill is set to expire on Sept. 30, and politicians from agricultural areas are keen to renew the bill, but are seeking ways to pay for it.

Baucus' package would include a conservation tax credit. The new bill would give agricultural producers the option of receiving a tax credit in lieu of cash payments for their land conservation efforts, and Baucus says this would free up funds from the farm bill budget.

The bill would also establish a permanent disaster relief trust fund to provide assistance to farmers or ranchers hit by natural disasters. That fund is estimated to cost $5 billion to $6 billion. The package also includes tax incentives for renewable energy sources such as wind, along with incentives for farmers to grow crops for ethanol, biodiesel and cellulosic biofuels.

Baucus has also proposed a rural development bond that would establish a new category of tax credit bonds for projects such as rural electricity, telemedicine, broadband and other economic development initiatives.

The House passed a farm bill in July but relied on a $6 billion proposed tax on some multinational companies with U.S. subsidiaries to pay for the measure, upsetting some lawmakers and nearly derailing the measure.

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