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Farm bill advances, includes PILT money for Nevada, other Western states

WASHINGTON — The farm bill moving toward approval in Congress includes a one-year extension of a federal program that compensates rural counties for federal lands they can’t tax. About 1,900 local governments — mostly in the West — received a total of $400 million last year under Payment in Lieu of Taxes.

More than three-quarters of the money went to 12 Western states, with the largest shares going to California, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona. Nevada, which has 56 million federal acres, collected $23 million last year.

Lawmakers in the West had howled after PILT was omitted from a budget deal approved this month. The bill authorizes $425 million to help rural communities pay for basic services such as police and fire protection and road maintenance.

The House approved the farm bill Wednesday on a 251-166 vote, sending it to the Senate. The White House has said President Barack Obama will sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford and Republican Rep. Joe Heck of Nevada voted for the farm bill, a measure that sets nutrition and agriculture policies for the next five years. Republican Rep. Mark Amodei did not vote, with a spokesman saying he was home in Carson City recovering from eye surgery.

Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., voted against the bill. She complained it cut food stamps by about $90 a month for 850,000 recipients.

The change in the food stamp program affected recipients in 16 states that had adopted a supplemental funding formula, but Nevada was not one of them, according to Horsford.

“SNAP recipients in Nevada will not see a dime cut from their benefits in this bill,” he said, referring to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the formal name for food stamps.

Still, Titus said, “I believe that we can and should be doing more to end hunger in the U.S., and this cut is a step in the wrong direction.”

Nevada lawmakers applauded the restoration of PILT payments,.

“These dollars pay for education, law enforcement, infrastructure, and other vital social services,” Horsford said. “This one-year renewal gives some certainty to local governments in planning their budgets, but we need to continue to work on permanent funding.”

Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault contributed to this report.

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