Protecting Drinking Water with a New Conservation Tool for Farmers
Water quality trading, much like green payments [PDF] heralded by AFT as a way to reward farmers for environmental stewardship, is an innovative and fast-growing means for reducing pollution and bettering the environment. Under water quality trading programs, farmers earn credits for implementing conservation practices that help protect drinking water; they then can trade those credits with industrial or municipal facilities required by law to reduce wastewater pollution. The Environmental Protection Agency and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service recently signed a partnership agreement to promote water quality credit trading—and AFT and its partners are developing water quality trading applications in Pennsylvania and Minnesota.
A Vision for 10,000 Acres of Farmland in California
The Suisun Valley in California, a unique agricultural area of nearly 10,000 acres, faces an uncertain future. High land prices, market competition and residential development threaten the viability of this farming community. According to local farmers, “It’s catch up time, but the regulations aren’t catching up as fast.” AFT is helping Solano County and the Suisun Valley Fund Advisory Committee to identify agricultural economic plans from throughout the country that could help. Using a farmer-driven input process, AFT is helping the Suisun Valley farm community articulate a vision for local agriculture.
Are Local Agriculture Easement Programs Protecting Farmland?
The first national assessment of local agricultural easement programs uncovers practices and approaches that have helped communities protect farm and ranch land across America. AFT’s newly released and final report of the study evaluates how effective 46 programs in 15 states are at protecting farmland from urban development. Most of these programs have impressively protected many acres of farmland, which continue to be farmed despite later purchase by non-farmers, in many cases.
Agricultural District Programs Provide Perks for Farmers and the Public
Agricultural landowners in Ohio and North Carolina are enjoying new benefits and protections under expanded agricultural district programs. Agricultural district programs allow farmers to form special areas where commercial agriculture is encouraged and protected. Enrollment is voluntary. In exchange for participation, farmers receive a package of incentives that varies from state to state. There are a total of 19 agricultural district programs in 16 states. In 2005, Ohio and North Carolina authorized new incentives to supplement existing provisions. North Carolina law now authorizes counties or municipalities to add the Enhanced Voluntary Agricultural Districts (EVADs) option to local ordinances establishing districts.
Around the Country
Bill Kuckuck, AFT Executive Vice President was in Pennsylvania to present a plaque to Secretary of Agriculture Dennis Wolff on the occasion of protecting the 3000th farm in their state.
The Board of Supervisors in Fresno County, California, directed its planning department to draft a strong new set of farmland protection policies.
AFT’s Southeast office recently convened groups of South Carolina farmers, fishers, chefs, extension agents, and non-profit organizations as part of the Lowcountry Farm to Chef Project.
The USDA Census of Agriculture numbers from 1997 and 2002 (the most recent data) project that Washington state loses roughly 23,000 acres of farmland to development per year.
The effort to renew the Clean Ohio Bond Fund is yielding some valuable byproducts for a coalition of Ohio environmental organizations, including AFT.
More than $385 million in Forest Service revenue will be distributed to 41 states for improvements to public schools, roads and stewardship projects.
Kevin Schmidt, AFT’s former Mid-Atlantic Director, has been selected to serve as the first Coordinator of Virginia’s Office of Farmland Preservation.