The Case for U.S. Farm Policy Reform
One of American Farmland Trust's greatest accomplishments has been creating and securing significant funding for federal agricultural conservation programs. These programs have reduced soil erosion, improved water quality and protected farmland. Despite much progress, we are forced to acknowledge that, quite simply, overall U.S. farm policy is broken. It was developed in the 1930s and accomplished a great deal over the years. But as we enter the 21st century, we can do better. Find out how you can help ensure that the 2007 Farm Bill helps make agriculture an economically viable and environmentally sustainable industry.
Farmland Protection Spending Holds Steady Despite Budget Shortfalls
Although many areas of the country experienced budget shortfalls in 2003, states and communities continued to spend steadily to protect farmland through Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easement (PACE) programs. PACE programs compensate farmers and ranchers for the development value of their land, while permanently protecting the land for agriculture. AFT's recently released survey of Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easement (PACE) programs reveals that states and communities spent $189 million to protect 185,175 agricultural acres in 2003. The combined investment in PACE remained virtually unchanged from 2002, and state spending on PACE jumped by a respectable five percent. You can access the new PACE fact sheets online at the Farmland Information Center. Click here to learn about creating a PACE program in your community.
National Conference Features New Documentary Film on Farmland Protection
Have you registered for AFT's 2004 national conference yet? If not, here's another great reason. Those attending "Farming on the Edge: Meeting the Challenge" in Lexington, Kentucky, November 15-17, will get to view the hottest new film in the world of land conservation. AFT member and acclaimed producer Dulanie Ellis (Point of View Films) will screen "HOME GROW'N, a 45-minute documentary that explores efforts in Ventura County, California, to preserve farmland through urban growth boundaries and Smart Growth development, maintaining the rural landscape and small towns' ambiance. "HOME GROW'N" addresses the value of agriculture to communities and the conflicts at the urban interface, and offers a rich palette of Smart Growth alternatives such as mixed-use, high-density and in-fill development. Copies of the film will be available for sale at the conference or by order from firstname.lastname@example.org.
Innovation and Tradition Combine for Agricultural Economic Sustainability
Forging new links between the Mid-Atlantic's urban and rural constituencies is one of many components of an agricultural economic development strategy to sustain a thriving resource-based economy on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Developed by American Farmland Trust (AFT) for the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy with funding from the Maryland Center for Agro-Ecology, Inc., the strategy offers a model for other communities where commodity-based agriculture and other resource-based enterprises must adapt to globalization and development pressure. It's particularly timely in light of the newly formed Maryland Agricultural and Resource-Based Industry Development Corporation (MARBIDCO), a public corporation designed to provide financing to the state's agricultural and resource-based businesses.
Urban Edge Farmers Learn Healthy Strategies for Combatting Pests
Farmers in Washington State's Puget Sound Basin are rethinking their use of pesticides, thanks to state-of-the-art information about Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM is a sustainable approach to controlling insects that combines prevention, avoidance, monitoring, and suppression in a way that minimizes economic, health, and environmental risks. Typically small, urban-edge farmers tend to get very little information about IPM, and much of what they do get is highly technical. To help fill this void, AFT is bringing knowledge of the IPM process to farmers in a way that will allows them to apply IPM to their own operations. Armed with this info, farmers can help themselves by reducing their dependence on pesticides, cutting costs and ultimately increasing their market share.
Polls Tap Voter Attitudes about the Environment and Open Space Protection
As the election season approaches, two polls conducted earlier this year shed light on how voters think about the environment and open space protection. A nationwide poll released by The Trust for Public and The Nature Conservancy in April showed that 65 percent of voters said they were willing to support small increases in taxes to pay for programs to protect water quality, wildlife habitat and neighborhood parks. Land conservation advocates noted that voters' willingness to spend was largely driven by a desire to protect water quality. Another interesting finding was that voters were more than four times as likely to say their community has "too little" protected open space rather than "too much," by a margin of 36 percent to 9 percent. These results are supported by a University of New Hampshire poll, in which voters cited growth, sprawl, and lack of open space as the number one problem facing the state's towns.
News Briefs from Around the Country
Save the date (Tuesday, December 7th) for the fifth annual Ohio Farmland Preservation Summit, the premier source of information sharing on farmland protection issues in Ohio.Snohomish County, Washington modified its agricultural rules recently to expand marketing opportunities for family farmers and launched a Web page designed to guide farmers through the thicket of county government.In Genesee County, New York, AFT conducted a survey of farmers, rural landowners and local government officials to gauge their interest in a new state "agricultural district enhancement" program.
The Organic Roots database, launched last month by the Alternative Farming Systems Information Center, features USDA research papers published before the widespread use of synthetic chemicals. It makes information about organic production methods more accessible, while preserving an important body of research.
Finally, please take the time to nominate a farmer for our $10,000 Steward of the Land Award.