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Delmarva Farmer Columnists

 

What is a currency transaction report? (April 28, 2015)

Ag Law

By Paul Goeringer, University of Maryland’s Center,  for Agricultural and Natural Resource Policy

A Maryland dairy’s 2012 encounter with the U.S. Department of Justice has made the news again.
The dairy had run afoul of a federal law designed for banks to report cash deposits over $10,000. DOJ initially seized the dairy’s bank account containing $63,000.
Later, DOJ claimed that $295,220 of the dairy’s deposits had been in violation of this law.
As part of settlement agreement with DOJ, the government took 10 percent, or $29,500, of the tainted deposits.
Because of stories like this one, the DOJ recently announced changes to when federal officials would be able to seize bank accounts running afoul of federal laws related to filing currency transaction reports.
Federal law currently requires all financial institutions to file a CTR with the Internal Revenue Service for all transactions greater than $10,000 (31 U.S.C. § 5313 (a)).
But what if you go to the bank this morning and deposit $5,000, then go to a different branch and deposit $6,000 later that day?
This would be considered one transaction totaling $11,000, because federal regulations clarify that multiple transactions in one business day are treated as a single transaction (31 C.F.R. § 1010.313).
Now consider you broke the transaction up over two days or over a span of days.
This potentially would be considered “structuring” because you attempted to cause the bank to avoid filing a CTR (31 C.F.R. § 1010.314).
Transactions such as these can lead to a bank filing a “Suspicious Activity Report” (SAR) (31 C.F.R. § 1020.320(a)(2)(ii)).
A bank is required to file a SAR when it believes the transaction is being conducted in a way to avoid Federal reporting requirements (i.e., filing a CTR).
The U.S. Attorney General recently announced changes to how the federal government operates the seizure of bank accounts when it comes to structuring financial transactions.
The guidance applies to all civil and criminal seizures involving structuring.
Under the guidance, if no criminal charges have been filed then law enforcement must have probable cause that the money was generated by an unlawful activity or that the structured funds will be used to help an illegal activity.
Probable cause is apparent facts which would lead an average person to believe the accused has committed a crime.
Law enforcement can also seek a warrant to seize funds through the proper channels.
The warrant would need to be approved by the respective U.S. Attorney General in the state and approved by the chief of the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section.
Once approved by these two individuals, law enforcement could seek a court to approve the warrant.
If the warrant is approved and law enforcement later determines there is insufficient evidence, then the full amount of the seized money (not just a portion) has to be returned within seven days.
Once seized, law enforcement has 150 days to file either criminal charges or a civil complaint against the asset.
If nothing is filed in that time period, then the full amount of the seized funds must be returned.
Along with the limits on when Department of Justice can seize bank accounts, the law has exemptions to CTRs for “qualified business customers” which farm producers may want to consider applying for especially if they are in a cash-heavy business.
A qualified business customer would not be required to file a CTR on deposits over $10,000, but the bank would still be required to file a SAR when it believes a transaction is suspicious. 
The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network has developed guidelines for when a business can be considered a qualified business customer. For more information on the exemptions, see http://go.umd.edu/CashStructure.
The DOJ’s recent change in account seizure rules will potentially prevent another incident faced by a Maryland dairy.
This rule change will limit the reach of account seizures to only those being used for criminal activities.
Even with the change in seizure policy, businesses which regularly make large cash deposits should talk with an attorney or accountant about qualified business customer exemptions.
(Editor’s note: See a related article on this topic in this issue’s Mid-Atlantic Beef & Dairy Farmer.)


Pollinators need us, and we need pollinators (April 28, 2015)

Keeping the Farm

By Sally Kepfer, State Resource Conservationist, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Delaware


They provide the means necessary for the reproduction of nearly 70 percent of the world’s flowering plants, including more than two-thirds of the world’s crop species.
Pollinators are birds, bats, butterflies, moths, flies, beetles, wasps, small mammals, and most importantly, bees.
Honey bees are responsible for pollinating more than 100 crops and one out of every three bites of food Americans eat.
These foods give our diet diversity, flavor, and nutrition.  
Over the past few decades, there has been a significant loss of pollinator habitat and pollinators from the environment.
Declining pollinator populations across the country pose a threat to our environment, economy and human health, but supporting pollinators is not hard to do.
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service recognizes the importance of pollinators and their habitat. NRCS is a part of the Pollinator Partnership to protect the health of managed and native pollinating species vital to North American ecosystems and agriculture.
There are several ways that restoring habitat for native pollinators can help landowners — in addition to plant pollination.
Encouraging native pollinators can cut down on the high rental cost of honey bee colonies; and enhance crop pollination leading to improved seed and fruit production.
Adding native flowering plants to the landscape provides important resources for nesting and feeding habitat, which can support healthy populations of native pollinators.
Native plants also contribute to local biodiversity and other ecological benefits such as healthy soil as they tend to have deeper roots — thus improving infiltration and reducing compaction.
NRCS offers technical support to landowners on how they can incorporate pollinator habitat in their conservation plan.
Landowners may receive technical and financial assistance to implement pollinator habitat into practices such as conservation cover and field borders.
There is a very long list of pollinators on the decline, including native bees — and efforts to incorporate more native habitat will help. More pollinator habitat means more insurance for pollinators.
Here are three things that you can do to enhance and create pollinator habitat on your operation:
• Preserve the natural pollinator habitat you have on the land. To do this, you will need to first identify the places pollinators use for feeding, nesting and overwintering.
• Protect the pollinators from pesticides, tilling of their nesting sites, mowing of flowering plants, and other destructive activities.
• Provide pollinators with additional resources, including forage plantings and nest sites.
If you are interested in obtaining pollinator assistance, first contact your local field office.
In Delaware’s Sussex County, call 302-856-3990, ext. 3; in Kent County, call 302-741-2600, ext. 3; and in New Castle County, call 302-832-3100, ext. 3.
If you are outside of Delaware, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/contact/ to find the office nearest you.
Additional information on all NRCS programs and services is available online at www.nrcs.usda.gov.