House and Senate Pass H.R. 2419, the “Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008”

On May 14, 2008, the House of Representatives voted (318 to 106) to adopt the conference agreement resolving the differences between the House-passed and Senate-passed versions of H.R. 2419, the “Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008.” On May 15, 2008, the Senate passed the conference agreement by a vote of 81 to 15. The bill will now be sent to the President for his approval.

The bill contains the following provisions of interest to SSA:

Exclusion of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Payments from the Self-Employment Contributions Act (SECA) Tax for Certain Individuals

•  Would exclude CRP payments from self-employment income for purposes of the SECA tax in the case of individuals who are receiving Social Security retirement or disability benefits. CRP is a voluntary program for agricultural landowners, which provides landowners with annual payments in return for planting cropland or certain marginal pastureland in resource-conserving vegetative covers. The change would be effective with respect to CRP payments made after December 31, 2007.

Change in Optional Method of Reporting Net Earnings from Self-Employment (NESE)

•  Would increase the amount of NESE that could be credited to individuals who file under the optional method of reporting to the amount of earnings needed for four quarters of coverage a year ($4,200 in 2008). Under present law, individuals who report under the optional method are credited with $1,600 a year, which would result in one quarter of coverage in 2008. Would be effective for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2007.

Transfer of Amounts from the General Fund to the Trust Funds

•  Would provide for the transfer of funds by the Department of the Treasury from general revenues to the OASDI Trust Funds in order to ensure that the assets of the trust funds are not reduced as a result of the enactment of H.R. 2419. Would provide for transfers for fiscal years 2009 through 2017.

Reconciliation of Social Security Numbers of Individuals Receiving Payments Under Farm Commodity Programs

•  Would require the Secretary of Agriculture, at least twice a year, to submit the Social Security numbers of all individuals who receive payments under farm commodity programs to the Social Security Administration in order to determine whether such individuals are alive. Would be effective no later than 180 days after enactment.