Welcome to the June issue of E-news. Read on to get the news about farmland protection; Growing Local; agriculture from the plan to the field; how sustainable agriculture is taking shape; and more!
Envisioning Sustainable Agriculture: Crop to Crop and Coast to Coast
There is a movement underway to chart a sustainable course for U.S. agriculture, and three American Farmland Trust projects are making headway. “Field to Market” is identifying the components for sustainable production of commodity crops such as wheat and corn by looking to the future and finding the right balance of practices that can feed the world’s expected population of nine billion in 2050. In California, we’re helping to develop measurement tools that look at sustainable practices to improve water use for specialty crops. And we’re at the table for the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture’s initiative to develop national standards for sustainable agriculture with the American National Standards Institute.
Pennsylvania’s Union County, located along the Susquehanna River Valley, has a rich agricultural heritage and many natural resources, including prime farm soils and pristine streams that drain into the Chesapeake Bay watershed. It also has a rapidly growing population that threatens agricultural townships: residential housing is expected to expand 40 percent by 2030. Working with Wallace Roberts and Todd, we helped the county develop a comprehensive plan that balances conservation with sustainable growth. The critical rural strategy is reflected in the Agricultural Development and Natural Resources Element, which offers ways to protect farmland, reduce conflicts between agriculture and other land uses, support the business of farming and encourage stewardship of natural resources.
Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easements Slowing at State Level
The amount of farm and ranch land protected by state-run purchase of agricultural conservation easement (PACE) programs in 2008 decreased 28 percent in spite of an increase in state spending, according to our nationwide survey. States spent $336 million the same year, up 14 percent from the year before, but only protected 121,373 acres, probably due to record high land values. PACE programs pay farmers to protect their farmland from development—farmland that supports the local economy and provides food, fiber, fuel and environmental benefits while maintaining local character. American Farmland Trust studies show that landowners tend to use the proceeds to install conservation practices and invest in their operations.
Conservation Funding for 2010: Hopeful Progress
Last week the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee restored the conservation funding that the President’s FY 2010 budget would have cut. The bill is now before the House and will go to the Senate later this summer. The bill funds programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which helps farmers improve the quality of the natural resources on their land. It also pays for the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP), which provides matching funds for programs that protect farm and ranch land, and the Conservation Loan Guarantee Program (CLG), which gives loans to farmers who want to convert to sustainable or organic agricultural production systems.
Around the Country
American Farmland Trust’s Jon Scholl and Anita Zurbrugg will be talking about farmland protection and sustaining agriculture in Illinois and beyond at the Illinois Conference on Agricultural Land Use Planning.
Climate Change legislation is in the House Agriculture Committee; tell your congressman that we need a better bill for agriculture before it makes it to the House floor for a vote!
Farmers market customers at over 600 farmers markets across the country are voting in our America's Favorite Farmers Markets contest. Be sure to vote for your favorite!
The Texas Farm and Ranch Land Conservation Program may receive more funds with the governor’s signature.
Wisconsin’s Joint Finance Committee approved two years of funding for the Working Lands Initiative, which will improve farmland conservation and agricultural enterprises.
Rutgers University surveyed New Jersey chefs on how to improve local food distribution to restaurants.
Massachusetts-based Lincoln Institute of Land Policy released a detailed study of smart growth in the United States.
The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources authorized funds to sustain active farming on state-protected farms.
In New York, groups are pulling together in solidarity for struggling dairy farmers.
Stay tuned later this month as we bring together farmers and ranchers in the Southwest to talk about combatting climate change.