Welcome to the May edition of American Farmland Trust's monthly E-news, featuring the latest on farm and ranch land protection, environmentally responsible farming, planning for agriculture, local food and more.
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The Dirt on Saving Farms with Transfer of Development Rights
How can the private market help curb high development pressure on farm and ranch land? Transfer of development rights (TDR) programs enable the transfer of development potential from one parcel of land to another—developers "buy" development rights from agricultural land owners to be used for growth in designated development zones. Check out our new TDR fact sheet (PDF) highlighting programs across the country and the components that make them successful. The market-driven programs typically protect more land as development pressure increases. Read about challenges and successes from New Jersey to Malibu in a collection of case studies that highlight ten TDR programs in five states.
Food Policy Councils Help the Future Burn Bright for Consumers and Producers
The recent spotlight on eating local has encouraged many states and communities across America to develop local food policy councils. Food policy councils are designed to bring together critical players in the production, processing, distribution and purchase of food, and AFT is a member of councils in Connecticut, New York and Ohio. Brian Williams, AFT’s Ohio State Director, has been involved with the development of an Ohio state level council and attended the first meeting to discuss tackling issues surrounding food’s journey from farm to kitchen. The council is developing strategies for creating local food access, healthy economic development and land conservation.
How Can Our Farms Help Fight Climate Change?
"Our urban neighbors need to know that for the dollars invested in agriculture they get something back," says Minnesota farmer Dave Legvold. Legvold’s corn, soybean and hay farm uses a "no-till" planting technique, promoted by AFT’s Agricultural Conservation Innovation Center, that requires fewer tractor passes while burning less fossil fuel and sequestering carbon in the soil. Climate conscious communities and energy companies are looking to farmers who are using the "no-till" method or planting grasses and trees on marginal land: climate-friendly agricultural practices that could offset up to one fifth of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
Breaking News: Farm Bill Deal is Done
In closed door meetings yesterday, Congress wrapped up farm bill negotiations and is expected to release details later today in a press conference. House and Senate floor votes are expected to take place next week in advance of the May 16th deadline. Amidst a White House veto threat, lawmakers are also building support for a veto override—which would require a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate.
The final bill may not include all the changes we would like to see, but there are many potential improvements over the alternative—extension of the 2002 Farm Bill. Based on what we know, we stand to make real gains in subsidy reform with the Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) program, while securing increased funding for conservation and working lands programs, improving support for local foods and increasing nutrition spending for families struggling with the rising cost of food. As farm bill details come in, stay up-to-date by subscribing to our RSS feed.
Around the Country
Scott County became the second county in Kentucky to adopt a Purchase of Development Rights program.
West Virginia recently enacted the Voluntary Rural and Outdoor Heritage Conservation Act that will fund the state’s Farmland Protection Fund.
AFT is opposing California’s Proposition 98, the "Property Owners and Farmland Protection Act," which will be put to voters in the June primary election.
Oregon is requiring the establishment of farm-to-school and school garden programs.
A new agriculture products exchange Web site for Maryland farmers is like a "Craigslist" for farming.
State legislators in Maryland passed Senate Bill 662, which will help fund a new program to assist beginning and young farmers in buying land.
Legislation (SB1992) introduced in Illinois would give counties the opportunity to generate local funding for farmland protection programs.
AFT and other groups successfully advocated for the release of $38 million for Illinois agriculture that had been tied up in a state budget standoff.