USDA e-mail response to (Cady letter August 17, 2010)
This e-mail is in response to your request received August 23, 2010, regarding, “Buying of Wetlands Conservation Easement in Deerfield, NH.” (Cady letter August 17, 2010). Thank you for your concern on our Wetland Reserve Program. Per your discussion today with Brian Vigue, our Freedom of Information Act Officer, we are handling this as a series of questions and not as a request under FOIA for specific records.
The following are responses to each of your individual questions:
1. How many wetlands easements have been bought in the state and how many in Deerfield?
As of 08/20/2010, 22 fiscal year 2009 Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) easements have closed. Three are located in the town of Deerfield.
Who did you buy the 22 easements from and where in the state? I note that you also state that there were three bought in fiscal year 2009, who from and where in Deerfield? Then I know from deed recordings that you bought two in Deerfield, Cannon's in April and Graykins in June 2010 what others were bought in 2010? Please list all properties bought in NH or provide documents since inception of the program/law?
2. How was the value set for the acreage easement?
The value was set by the New Hampshire Geographic Area Rate Cap (GARC).
Please provide a copy of the GARC and explain what or provide a map of the Geographic area. The next question is specific as to the value set for an acre in "Fee Simple" for Deerfield as $2,100 and yet your agency paid nearly $4100 for an easement which is only one right in a total acre of land so again please explain how an easement value set by an appraiser can be more than the appraised value of an acre?
3. The Town of Deerfield has just been revalued and my excess backland acre has a value of $2,100 so how can a wetland easement be nearly two times the value?
We cannot speak to the valuation methods of the Town of Deerfield. WRP easement values are set by the state GARC. Information about the GARC can be found on our website at www.nh.nrcs.usda.gov.
The valuation methods for Deerfield or any other town are set by the National Association of Assessing Officials Standards, very comparable to appraisal methods I used when an appraiser for the NH Dept. of Transportation. In fact the NH D.O.T. had checks by the Federal D.O.T. to be sure we did not pay more for a parcel of land to build a highway than the Market Value for the area. What regulations govern the value you pay? Please provide a copy of the regulation of who checks the value and okays the price and parcels bought?
4. An easement value should not be above the fee simple ownership value?
That is a correct. Can you explain why your agency paid more than market value as determined by National Association of Assessing Officials Standards?
5. Do the persons receiving the payment have to pay Capital Gains?
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is not authorized to provide tax information; however, all payments to program participants are reported to the IRS.
I am not asking for tax information on particular participants but rather does the law exempt persons from paying capital gains on money paid by Commodities Credit Corporation to buy the wetlands easements? Please send documentation of what this Commodities Credit Corporation's incorporation and who is in its Board of Directors?
6. Who are the employees for this agency in Durham?
I note that you have an employee named Maryellen Cannon, is she related to the James and Sally Cannon that you bought the 167.68 acres wetlands from on South Road in Deerfield? Do your employees have to sign a document disclosing their conflict of interests such as I used to have to for the NH Dept. of Transportation? Is Erick Bergland of Deerfield affiliated with your agency in any way?
7. In NH where property taxes are set by Market Value Sales in a community will this cause a skewed affect in setting land values for taxation purposes?
NRCS staff has neither the knowledge nor the authority to address how land values are assessed for taxation purposes. The NH Department of Revenue Administration or your Town Assessor may be able to assist you.
I well understand how land values are set in NH and how the market affects these values. I was a certified appraiser by the NH Department of Revenue for many years; I just want to know why the Federal Government uses tax payer’s money to pay more than market value and how it is justified. Further that the Federal Government also realize that their payments for land can be used to estimate market value in setting value for tax purposes.
8. Who are the employees of the Agency in Durham and in the State of New Hampshire?
9. How many belong to Conservation Commissions in the Towns where easements are being bought?
NRCS employee participation on a Conservation Commission does not require employer authorization; therefore, the agency has no way of knowing how many employees are members of Conservation Commissions.
Are you telling me that employees of the USDA Natural Resources Division do not have to disclose conflicts? If so why not?
10. What US Law set this program in place?
Title XII of the Food Security Act of 1985, as amended (16 U.S.C. &3837), for the Wetlands Reserve Program.
What year was it amended and please send a copy of the law and amendment?
11. I talked to a Sue Hoey of your agency in Durham when I called and she stated I needed to file a Freedom of Information Request for the information, why!
As stated above, this request will not be treated as a FOIA request. However, for your information, the FOIA is found in Title 5 of the United States Code, Section 552. FOIA was enacted in 1966 and gives any person the right to request access to almost any federal agency record, except those protected from disclosure by legal exemptions and exclusions (e.g., classified national security, business proprietary, personal privacy, and investigative documents). For additional information, please visit the USDA FOIA website at www.dm.usda.gov/foia.htm
I have now asked for Documents which I assume will be handled under the Freedom of Information Act. Should this not be correct please inform me of what other steps I must take.
12. How are the local officials and citizens notified of this program within their community?
The public is informed of the availability of NRCS technical assistance and programs through press releases in the local news media, radio announcements, and the national and state-wide web pages.
I guess I didn't make my question clear, I am not asking about the availability of the program but rather about what parcels being bought in our community information and how the community knows about this?
If you have further questions, please contact Rick Ellsmore, State Conservationist. Thank you.
I have put everything in Green that I am asking and hope this makes it easier for your staff to clarify information to me.
Harriet E. Cady
P.O. Box 149
Deerfield, NH 03037-0149
USDA - NRCS
2 Madbury Road
Durham, NH 03824
Tel: 603-868-9931, Ext. 105