Many Texas landowners struggle to hang on to the family farm or ranch. To help address this issue, the Texas Agricultural Land Trust, a 501c3 organization whose mission is to help landowners protect, conserve and pass land down to future generations, is hosting two workshops featuring tax expert Steve Small.

 "The combination of high land prices and burdensome estate taxes is making it difficult for families, even those who have done a significant amount of estate planning, to maintain ownership," Blair Fitzsimons, TALT Executive Director said. "As a result, Texas is losing productive agricultural land and wildlife habitat faster than any other state in the nation."

One of the tools available to landowners is a conservation easement, a voluntary agreement between the landowner and land trust that restricts all future non-agricultural development of the property. In return for placing this restriction on the property, the landowner receives significant income and estate tax benefits.

"The love of the land holds many families together," Fitzsimons said. "But if they are going to keep that land together, they often need information and effective tools to help them.”

 The four-hour “Saving Family Lands” seminars will be taught by Steve Small, cited by Forbes Magazine as “the nation’s top authority on saving land and money with conservation easements.” As an IRS attorney, Mr. Small helped write and implement the federal tax code sections governing conservation easements. Today, in his private practice, he advises landowners on protecting valued family lands, including preparing for the next generation of ownership.

 Designed for landowners, CPAs, attorneys, and appraisers, the first seminar will be held in Houston on June 22nd at the Houstonian, 111 North Post Oak Lane, from 1:30 - 5:30 p.m. The second seminar will be held on June 23rd in Amarillo at the Amarillo Club, 600 S. Tyler Street, from 1:30 - 5:30 p.m. The cost is $75 per person, and $100 for those seeking Continuing Legal Education credit.

 The seminars are especially timely in the wake of tax incentives passed by Congress in 2010. These incentives, which expire at the end of 2011, enable greater utilization of the conservation easement tool by those who make their living from agriculture.   

 "Ranching and agriculture continue to be a way of life in much of Texas, and this heritage is threatened every time open space is lost," said Fitzsimons. “Losing rural lands is a problem for all of society, not just farmers and ranchers.  These lands provide many public benefits, such as aquifer recharge, carbon sequestration, and wildlife habitat."

The seminars are sponsored by the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association and the Texas Wildlife Association.

Space is limited. To register for the seminars, visit TALT's website: www.txaglandtrust.org, or call 210-826-0074.