Welcome to the March edition of E-news. In this issue: read about how a new farmland protection program in Wisconsin is helping the state be economically sustainable, learn how local food could lead to cleaner water, and see how we plan to scale-up conservation in the Chesapeake Bay.
Can Buying Local Mean Clean Water Too?
Buying locally from nearby farmers who care for the land can provide consumers with more than fresh food. Residents of the New York City metropolitan region who buy Pure Catskills branded products are also supporting the farmers who keep their drinking water clean. During the past decade, Catskill farmers have worked in cooperation with the Watershed Agricultural Council on a unique land protection and environmental stewardship program that keeps the watershed’s streams and reservoirs pristine—the same watershed that supplies drinking water to millions of New York City residents. Now, through a local food map and other resources, the new Pure Catskills initiative is helping consumers locate products from the farms that grow wholesome local food and clean water.
Wisconsin Governor Ties Farmland Protection to Economic Sustainability
While budget cuts in many states pose a threat to key farmland protection programs, Wisconsin is starting anew. Governor Doyle announced the inclusion of the Working Land Initiative in his budget. “Wisconsin’s farms are an essential part of our economy. Under the working lands program, this budget will slow the loss of good farmland.” He also listed the working lands program among several steps the state will take to strengthen itself in key economic areas. The Working Lands Program is a budget-neutral package of incentives to promote farmland protection and future investments in agricultural enterprises in the state. Governor Doyle’s Working Land Initiative package faced its first legislative hurdle on March 4th.
Scaling Up Conservation: A Model for Success
Last year, American Farmland Trust worked with ten Pennsylvania farmers in a demonstration project to grow crops using less fertilizer than the recommended levels. The project resulted in successfully reducing the amount of nitrogen that could flow into waterways by almost 25,000 pounds. This is a big success, but it is also just the beginning! The Pennsylvania project is the first step in our work to “scale-up conservation.” Visit our model for success to see how we are taking small projects that work, creating money-saving policies and programs, and expanding those programs to ensure a cleaner environment while keeping farms in business.
A Very Good Start for USDA Secretary Vilsack
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has already taken action in support of farmland protection, the economic viability of agriculture and regional food and farming systems. He is also proposing new ways to encourage and reward farmers’ efforts to protect the environment. The Secretary is discussing moving towards a system of “green payments” for farms of all sizes that use their land to help absorb carbon and provide clean water and other environmental benefits. We compliment Secretary Vilsack for his early and earnest commitment to healthy farms, healthy food and healthy communities.
If you haven’t already, please join us in sending a letter of support to Secretary Vilsack thanking him for the steps he is taking to protect our farm and ranch land and promote a greener American agriculture.
Around the Country
The 7th Annual Public Markets Conference is scheduled in California for April 24th-27th.
Just one more month until the American Planning Association’s national conference will be held in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
In New York, a Manhattan borough president urges the city to “Buy Local.”
In Iowa, Senator Grassley wants a bio-fuels commitment in future auto bailout.
North Carolina is losing prime farmland at a record pace—over 600,000 acres in two years.
Hearings are being held over Maryland's Senate Bill 816 which proposes the formation of a Food and Hunger Policy Council.
A series of workshops in Virginia will help landowners explore the possibilities for leasing their land to emerging farmers.
Don't forget to sign up for the Annual Southwest Marketing Network Conference for farmers in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado or Utah. The conference will be held in Durango, Colorado from April 6th-8th.