Act Now to Protect Conservation Funding, New Study on Smart Growth in Rural Communities, Growing Green with Data

American Farmland Trust
American Farmland Trust

E-News August 11, 2010

Welcome to the August issue of E-news. Click here to view a version of E-news on the web. Can't wait until next month's E-news to hear more about farms, food, and the environment? Check out our Farmland Report blog where we post regular updates about our work across the country and in the nation's capital.

New York

Farmland Protection Funding Cuts Cause Hardship for Farmers

NY CapitalNew York State's recently passed budget cuts farmland protection funding by 51 percent. Now the actual cash allocation may be cut in half as well, potentially leaving just over $5 million available for farmland protection this year. Currently the state has announced but not yet made good on $71.5 million for farm families to purchase development rights to their farms. Last week American Farmland Trust brought farmers, local officials, land trust representatives and others to Albany to talk to Commissioner of Agriculture Patrick Hooker and key legislators about the hardships these cuts are causing for farmers and rural communities.

Vilsack Listens to Hudson Valley Residents Talk About the Great Outdoors

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Vilsack and AFT's David Haight

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack and other senior representatives from federal agencies such as the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency visited the Hudson Valley last week for a public listening session on President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative. Afterwards, our New York State Director David Haight spoke to Secretary Vilsack at a panel presentation at Clermont Country Farmers Market, emphasizing that although New York’s seven million acres of farmland only produce enough food to feed 30 percent of the state’s population, the state continues to lose farmland at a rate of one farm every three days.

Battenkill Fibers Carding and Spinning Mill Opens for Business


Battenkill Fibers, located in the Upper Hudson Valley town of Greenwich, will be opening for business this month and is already buying fleeces from regional sheep, goat, llama and alpaca farms. The mill offers custom processing as well as their own product-line featuring 100 percent New York-produced wool. The mill will also have a factory store on site. The operation was funded with a loan from the Washington County Local Development Corporation. “This is another way for farmers to add value to their products,” said mill owner Mary Jean Packer. “Such economic opportunities help farms stay in business.”

New England

Massachusetts Establishes Statewide Food Policy Council

Lettuce in MassachusettsLegislation to create a statewide Food Policy Council has been enacted and signed into law in Massachusetts. Over the last two years we have worked closely with a group of Massachusetts farm, food and public health organizations—now the Massachusetts Food Policy Alliance—to advocate for the measure, which establishes a 17-member council to advance four food system goals to: increase production, sales and consumption of Massachusetts-grown foods; bring healthy local foods to Massachusetts residents and increase access in communities with disproportionate burdens of obesity and chronic diseases; protect the land and water resources needed for sustained local food production; and train, retain and recruit farmers and provide for the continued economic viability of local food production, processing and distribution.

Chesapeake Bay

Chesapeake Bay Area Focus of Recent Legislation Push

AFT's Jim Baird talking with a Farmer from MarylandGreat news for the Chesapeake Bay region! Bi-partisan legislation that passed through committee in the House and Senate is now one step closer to helping clean the Bay area. The Chesapeake Bay Program Reauthorization & Improvement Act seeks to set reasonable environmental goals for the agriculture community in the region. The second bill, The Chesapeake Clean Water & Ecosystem Restoration Act of 2009, encourages greater collaboration between the EPA and USDA. Combined, provisions in these bills could reinvigorate the potential for environmental trading markets and provide funding to implement conservation practices, technical assistance, and research on farms, among other possible opportunities.


Local Champion Protects Historic Virginia Farmland

Cows Resting in a FieldThanks to the vision of Sandy Lerner, a historic 350-acre farm in Loudon County, Virginia, has been placed under a conservation easement. She purchased the property two years ago when it was scheduled to be converted into a subdivision. The preservation of Mountain Gap Farm, with its cattle operation dating back to 1741, is not the first time Lerner has made a significant contribution to protect farmland in the state. The Land Trust of Virginia recently recognized her efforts in placing the 800-acre Ayrshire Farm into an easement.

Farm and Food Network Celebrates Anniversary

Potato HarvestFarmer Girls, a network for marketing locally grown food in northern Virginia, celebrates its one-year anniversary this summer. The Farmer Girls savvy concept is simple but effective: members order local products online that they can then pick up at one of four nearby distribution sites. The unique initiative provides a reliable sales network for farmers while also allowing customers more flexible and convenient options than a traditional farmers market. 


Maryland State Senator Seeks Food Policy Council

Farmer-vendorsFood policy councils have been cropping up across North America in cities, regions and states as a way to help rebuild local food systems and reestablish the connections between agriculture and other issues such as hunger, health and nutrition. Sen. Jamie Raskin, who championed the Jane Lawton Farm-to-School legislation last session, has introduced a bill establishing the Maryland Food and Hunger Policy Council. The proposed legislation is just the latest effort in the state, with Baltimore’s Food Policy Task Force and Office of Sustainability both making strides to support the local food system and improve access to fresh, healthy food.

 Main Stories

Act Now to Tell Secretary Vilsack − Don't Slash Funding for Conservation!

Apple HarvesterPresident Obama has recently called on all non-security federal agencies to propose ways to cut their budgets by five percent to help reduce wasteful spending. While we applaud the President’s efforts to move toward a more balanced federal budget, we must find other solutions to our nation’s budget woes than cutting programs that help farmers secure a cleaner future for our air, water and land. Farmers and ranchers are uniquely poised to provide cost-effective solutions to our most pressing environmental challenges, but not without funding for our most effective initiatives. Tell Secretary Vilsack and your members of congress NOT to cut our already underfunded conservation programs!

Smart Growth for Rural Communities

Veggies in a Bike BasketAre there smart growth strategies to help guide growth in rural areas while protecting natural and working lands and preserving the rural character of existing communities? A new report, Putting Smart Growth to Work in Rural Communities, presents case studies and strategies based around three central goals, including "supporting the rural landscape by creating an economic climate that enhances the viability of working lands and conserves natural lands." Our rural smart growth efforts include working with communities and partners to plan for agriculture in California, New York and Pennsylvania and a focus on ecosystem services markets for agriculture in the Pacific Northwest.

A Break in the Weather: AgWeather Network Guides Washington Farmers

Ag Weather StationAlien-looking contraptions protrude out of farm fields throughout the state of Washington. Look closer and you’ll see gauges measuring all kinds of weather data, from temperature and precipitation to wind and humidity. Washington’s AgWeatherNet is one of the most advanced weather networks of its kind in the country. By comparing the weather data to disease and insect models, Washington State University researchers are helping growers better assess the risk from outbreaks and—as a result—use fewer chemicals. To read more about innovative efforts like this one to help farmers protect the environment, subscribe to American Farmland magazine.

 Around the Country

Last week during National Farmers Market Week, Julia Freedgood reflected on the growth in farmers markets in the last year to 6,132 markets nationwide.

A bill passes in Massachusetts creating a Food Policy Council consisting of key stakeholders in food policy including public health advocates, state policy makers, farmland and environmental protection organizations, and many others.

Nothing tells the story about the importance of saving America's farms and farmland as well as images of the many hard-working families who provide us with food and steward the land. Send us your photos and help us celebrate 30 years of saving the land that sustains us.

Get ready to rock and roll in the Midwest this fall. Farm Aid 25: Growing Hope for America will be held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on October 2, 2010.

In New Hampshire, the oldest running family farm was put on the market. The 134-acre farm, in continuous operation since 1632, has slowly seen development encircle the property, but will remain in agriculture since it is protected by a conservation easement..

Farmer Girls, a network for marketing locally grown food in northern Virginia, celebrates its one-year anniversary this summer.

“While most legislators are heading off to campaign during the summer break,  Democrat Jon Tester of Montana and Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowathe only members of the Senate who are active farmers – are heading home to tend to their fields.

A new report released last week by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change confirms the message of our Agriculture & Environment initiative: federal climate change legislation that includes farmers and ranchers will benefit agriculture economically and keep down the cost of cutting carbon for everyone.

Sen. Jamie Raskin has introduced a bill establishing the Maryland Food and Hunger Policy Council. The proposed legislation is just the latest effort in the state, with Baltimore’s Food Policy Task Force and Office of Sustainability both making strides to support the local food system and improve access to fresh, healthy food.

Will Allen’s infamous Growing Power is bringing a National-International Urban & Small Farm Conference to Milwaukee, Wisconsin in September.

In a piece for the Times Standard, State Senator Patricia Wiggins discusses the proposed California Farmland Conservancy Program Act. If approved, the legislation would establish the Farm, Ranch and Watershed Fund to provide relief funding for critical farm and ranch land in the Golden State.
A unique partnership between agriculture and the military is working to protect farmland in the eastern region of North Carolina.

In Missouri, Governor Jay Nixon has created a Joint Committee on Urban Farming that will report to the governor on urban farming and sustainable living communities, including suggestions on how to convert abandoned buildings into productive produce centers.

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