Promoting Rural Sustainability
Manatee County, located on the Gulf Coast of Florida just south of Tampa, is an attractive place to live - and also an important agricultural county for ranches and growing tomatoes. With recent population growth in the county, however, rural areas are being lost to a pattern of sprawling suburban development. AFT recently completed the first phase of an economic and fiscal study to help Manatee move forward in protecting agricultural land utilizing Florida's innovative Rural Land Stewardship Program. The market-driven program is designed to help growing rural counties protect agricultural resources, ecosystems and habitat areas while effectively directing development.
The Budget Battle Is On
The President's budget, released Monday, potentially creates a less than ideal climate for writing the 2007 Farm Bill. The proposed $89 billion agriculture budget represents about 5 percent less than was spent in 2006. AFT President Ralph Grossi says, "It's unfortunate that at just the time we have a clearer picture of where we should be investing public dollars in agriculture to lead us into the 21st century, there is apparently going to be declining funds for the farm bill." AFT is taking the lead in requesting increased budget authority to meet the needs of agriculture and the public.
Picking Up the Pace for Farmland Protection
New York’s farmers and communities are ready for the state government to take a fresh look at the way it approaches farmland protection. AFT’s newly release report, Picking Up the Pace: A Road Map for Accelerating Farmland Protection in New York, finds that New York loses about 10 times more farmland to development than it protects annually. Each year, 26,000 acres of farmland are developed in New York while the state’s Farmland Protection Program has protected only 2,192 acres annually. “The loss of farmland is a matter of extreme importance for New York farmers and citizens,” said David Haight, New York Director for American Farmland Trust.
Farm to Corporate Cafeteria? Google Gets It
Google employees can enjoy fresh and healthy food from local farms at a new type of corporate cafeteria—one that sources ingredients from farms within a 150 mile radius of the company's offices in northern California. Google's Cafe 150 reflects a corporate food service model that impacts the local economy and farmers while providing largely healthful and artisan-produced meals for employees. "Whether it's your health, conservation or incredible flavors, we have become a purpose-driven culinary team," says food service director John Dickman. AFT's proposed Farm and Ranch Profitability Grants Program [PDF] could help grow efforts like these across the country and promote institutional food sourcing from farms within 100 miles or so -- with benefits that extend well beyond fresh healthy food.
Stewardship Is the Future of Agriculture
“Farmers in New England are very enthusiastic about the Conservation Security Program (CSP), however there are quirks in the program they would like to have fixed. Overall they feel it is the right direction for agriculture policy,” said Kathleen Merrigan, Ph.D., assistant professor of agriculture, food and the environment at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. Dr. Merrigan presented the results of a study on the CSP, done in collaboration with AFT, to members of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and called for a renewed effort to strengthen the program and provide it with full funding. Clean air and water, improved wildlife habitat and protected farm and ranch land are all benefits of the various conservation programs.
Around the Country
United States Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns outlined the Administration’s FY 2008 Agricultural Budget.
AFT and the Working Lands Alliance have joined together with land conservation and urban advocates to launch The Face of Connecticut campaign to significantly increase the state’s commitment over the next ten years to protect farmland.
Washington Governor Christine Gregoire’s legislative package, “Working Lands Initiative,” was heavily influenced by AFT and includes several bills that would certainly help agriculture.
Virginia Governor Tim Kaine included five million in his budget for farmland preservation.