Farm Bill Update, Growing a Local Food System, Stop Sprawl and more

American Farmland Trust
American Farmland Trust

E-News March 6, 2008

Welcome to our March edition of E-news, featuring the latest on farm and ranch land protection, environmentally and economically sustainable agriculture, planning for agriculture, local foods and more.

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Growing a Local Food System

Burlington County, New Jersey local foods promotion“Starting with the field and moving toward the fork” may be the best approach to fostering a strong community food system that sustains local agriculture—particularly in development threatened communities where farmers face tough challenges. In Burlington County, New Jersey, American Farmland Trust is working with the Office of Farmland Preservation to identify partners, organize public input and research ordinances and regulations to see which thwart or support a local food system. Project goals include improving policies to support local farms, drafting a county right-to-farm law and finding ways to increase accessibility of local food to the entire population.

Survey Studies Viability for Farms on the Urban Edge

Illinois’ corn and soybean powerhouse, DeKalb County—only an hour’s drive from the city of Chicago —is one of the subjects of a new study on farm viability and farmland preservation in counties with growing populations but significant agricultural sectors (PDF). Researchers presented early results from the new USDA-sponsored survey (PDF) at a DeKalb forum in February. The study involves interviews with farmers and agricultural experts in urban-edge counties in 14 states to determine which policies and conditions have the greatest impact on the ability of local farms to survive. Case studies from the study will be published as they become available over the next several months; the full report is anticipated in early 2009.

Just Say No to Development

Housing development pressures on farmlandWhen farmers and ranchers place agricultural conservation easements on their property, they are saying no to development. They still retain ownership of the land, but donate or sell the easement in exchange for the right to permanently prevent the development of their property. While 27 states have enacted purchase of agricultural conservation easement programs, including Texas, Texas is one of six states that hasn’t funded their program. Fortunately, the recently formed Texas Agricultural Land Trust (TALT) has begun working with ranchers to protect valuable properties in the state. Thanks to their work, agricultural landowners now can count on a dedicated, private land trust to help combat the serious loss of Texas farm and ranch land.

March 15th Farm Bill Deadline Likely to Be Missed

After halting starts and stops, the House and Senate appear to be working together, agreeing last week to $10 billion in additional funding for a 10-year farm bill—but finding that funding is still in question. The White House supports $10 billion in spending only if certain reforms and offsets are included, as detailed in their "parameters of a successful farm bill." Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) says the offsets "are pretty problematic.Since meeting the March 15th deadline is unlikely, lawmakers now are looking for another one-month extension to finalize details.   

Around the Country

The first countywide anti-sprawl measure passed in the San Joaquin Valley in California.

Over 200 people from 45 counties gathered in Saratoga Springs, New York to learn about tools to protect farmland and promote the business of agriculture.

New conservation grants are available in Washington to help protect salmon while strengthening local farms.

The Hawaii State Legislature introduced a conservation tax credit bill for the 2008 session.

Two farmland protection bills for counties are making their way through the Illinois legislature: one is to raise property taxes for farmland protection and the other is for authority to have a Purchase of Agricultural Easements program.

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