New Report on Conservation, Current Top Five Favorite Farmers Markets in Your State, the Great Outdoors and More

American Farmland Trust
American Farmland Trust

E-News July 15, 2010

Welcome to the July 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

State Food Policy Council Considers Importance of Protecting Land for Food

Girl Eating a PeaOur New York Director, David Haight, recently discussed farmland protection with the New York State Council on Food Policy during a panel presentation at their summer meeting in Harlem on the “New York Food System: Supply, Demand and Delivery.” The council makes recommendations to the governor on food and agriculture issues. This was one of the first times the council heard directly about the importance of farmland protection to the security of the state’s food supply and is one example of how we are working to integrate farmland protection into New York’s food and nutrition policies.

New State Law Speeds Up Process for Protecting Farms

Clark FamilyNew legislation supported by American Farmland Trust makes land trusts eligible to apply directly to New York state for funding to protect farms from development, cutting red tape for farms and communities. Until now only municipalities and counties could apply for this funding. In 75 percent of these projects communities have partnered with land trusts. “Farmland preservation protects open space from development, provides revenue for farmers, and keeps our land producing food for New York families,” said Senator Darrel Aubertine, who sponsored the bill. “Enabling land trusts to help farmers apply for preservation grants expands opportunities for farmers throughout the state.”

People of Parma Vote to Protect Martin Farm

Cabbage FarmThe rural town of Parma, located outside Rochester, was New York state’s first town to adopt an agriculture and farmland protection plan. It is now putting that plan into action. Last month, residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of using town funds to purchase the development rights to 114 acres of farmland. This land is farmed by the fourth generation of the Martin family and produces soybeans, wheat and vegetables. The town will pay half the cost of the agricultural conservation easement. The remainder will come from Monroe County’s Greenspace Initiative grant, which is funded by a Philip Morris tobacco settlement.

New England

Rhode Island Expands Conservation Easement Protections

Rhode Island State BuildingLegislation recently enacted in Rhode Island gives the Rhode Island Attorney General new authority to enforce conservation easements, making Rhode Island the eighth state in the country to give its attorney general explicit enforcement power. The statute also permits courts to award attorney’s fees in easement enforcement proceedings, providing a potential avenue for the state and land trusts to recoup legal costs incurred while defending conservation easements against violations. Initiated by the Rhode Island Land Trust Council, the statute is expected to deter violations of easements, which can be an expensive enforcement problem for land trusts and other entities that hold easements. 

Updated Guide Describes Farmland Conservation Options

Conservation Options for Connecticut FarmlandConservation Options for Connecticut Farmland, a joint publication of American Farmland Trust and Connecticut Farmland Trust, describes farmland protection options and programs available in the state and answers frequently asked questions about agricultural conservation easements. The revised guide is intended for farm and forest landowners, land trusts and municipalities, and it provides updated information about state and federal land conservation programs, estate planning and farm transfer techniques. To obtain a free hard copy, contact American Farmland Trust’s Connecticut office

Film Premiere Showcases Eight Maine Farmers

Maine Movie: Meet Your FarmerOn June 25th, over 350 people attended the first showing of Meet Your Farmer, a series of eight short films commissioned by Maine Farmland Trust to highlight the vibrant farm sector in Maine. The films feature the challenges and opportunities facing farms from around the state in a variety of sectors, including dairy, livestock, potatoes, vegetables and apple orchards. The films are available online and will be shown at additional theaters this summer and fall.

Chesapeake Bay

Helping Farmers Achieve 40,000 Pounds of Stewardship

AFT's Jim Baird talking with a Farmer from MarylandTechniques to achieve greater efficiency from fertilizers are well researched and designed to be good for a farmer's bottom-line as well as local waterways. But just as a warranty or a money-back guarantee can convince a shopper who is on the fence to take the plunge, our BMP Challenge gives farmers the confidence to try out something unfamiliar. Twenty-nine farmers from three states representing over 2,000 acres are taking the BMP Challenge this summer to reduce fertilizer runoff into waterways. These farmers could help keep as much as 40,000 pounds of nitrogen out of the bay.


Blue Ribbon Agriculture Committee Seeks Solutions to Five Challenges

Ag VIsion CaliforniaThe initial recommendations of a blue ribbon committee convened by American Farmland Trust to address the major challenges facing California agriculture were accepted in late June by the State Board of Food & Agriculture, the principal agriculture advisor to Governor Schwarzenegger. Five challenges are covered by the recommendations.

Promising Initial Results for New Environmentally Sound Farming Practices Program in California

Farmer in the Field Looking at ResultsThe first year of American Farmland Trust’s BMP Challenge field trials in the San Joaquin Valley of California have proved to be a success, with no reported loss of crop yields due to the use of new beneficial management practices (BMPs) that reduce water pollution and climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions. Six growers of forage corn altered their cultivation and fertilization routines on 600 acres under agreements that promised to indemnify them for any economic losses suffered as a result of reduced yields.

Vision California: Charting Our Future

California CityscapeA new report by the planning firm Calthorpe Associates highlights the vivid contrast between the impacts of conventional urban sprawl and smart growth on California’s land, water, energy, climate and the economy. Charting Our Future documents the initial application of a new computer modeling tool called Rapid Fire to examine four different future growth scenarios.


200,000 Acres Recommended for New Program

CowProgress continues to be made in Wisconsin to mitigate farmland loss. The Working Lands Initiative has made recommendations for fostering farming activities on 200,000 acres of land in the state through an Agricultural Enterprise Area (AEA) designation. According to Secretary Rod Nilsestuen of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, “Each proposed AEA is unique and reflects the diversity of Wisconsin’s agriculture. This includes vegetable farms and processors, traditional dairies, poultry operations and organic farms that sell their products locally. Their commonality is the desire to preserve their agricultural lands and to offer an area where agricultural businesses can feel confident in locating or expanding.” 


New Project Will Bring Cleaner Water to Upper Salt Fork Watershed in Illinois

Corn FarmerWe are embarking on a strategic, three-year project to reduce nutrient runoff in the Upper Salt Fork watershed, by directing funding to farmers to accelerate the adoption of conservation practices while maintaining crop yields. "We hope to achieve between 10 to 20 percent reductions in nutrient runoff on participating farms in Champaign County, and to create a plan to scale-up this approach within the state and Mississippi River Basin," says Anita Zurbrugg, Midwest Director with our Center for Agriculture in the Environment in DeKalb, Illinois.

 Main Stories

Conservation: Much Has Been Gained, Much More to Be Done

River running through farmlandA new report released last month shows the effects of on-farm conservation practices on the environmental health of the Upper Mississippi River Basin. AFT’s president Jon Scholl notes that while investments in conservation are paying off, more work needs to be done. “Through our Agriculture & Environment initiative, we are working to expand conservation and environmentally responsible farming practices, engage agriculture in developing and participating in ecosystem markets and develop policies and programs to advance conservation. The overall goal is to help farmers protect environmental resources while expanding their sources of income and keeping them on their farm and ranchland.”

The Great Outdoors in Your Backyard (or Back 40!)

Vermont FishermanA few months have passed since President Obama signed a memorandum to conserve America’s Great Outdoors. Nevertheless, the importance of protecting our farm and ranch land remains an essential component to developing a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda. Our private working lands account for nearly half the land in the United States, meaning this initiative will have direct local impacts. Join the conversation by attending a public listening session in your area or submit your ideas online to share your thoughts on conservation—especially farmland preservation—for the benefit of a sustainable and healthy future.   

Check Out the Current Top Five Farmers Markets in Your State

Want to know how your state is doing in the America's Favorite Farmers Markets™ contest? Check out our up-to-the minute view of the top five markets with the most votes in all 50 states (and the District of Columbia). We need your help to make a big impact in every state by getting your fellow farmers market enthusiasts, local media, and local governments excited about promoting the farmers markets in your state. Here are some of the tools we have prepared to help get the word out!

After 100 Years of Farming, Family Seeks to Encourage Others

Digging up PotatoesFarms often commemorate their 100th anniversary with parades and local events. In New England, Szawlowski Potato Farms' recent centennial year celebration did include local farmers showcasing their equipment along Main Street and a festive gathering later at the farm. But the fifth generation family farming operation—which spans 2,500 acres across the Connecticut River Valley—also marked the occasion with the creation of an agricultural foundation whose goal is to further the practice of farming and preserve agriculture in the region. Through the new foundation, the family hopes to "help ensure that agriculture remains vital and good stewardship of the land continues to be a priority in the years to come." The farm currently works land that our New England office and local groups are working to protect.

 Around the Country

Members of the agricultural community are invited to meet with representatives from the USDA and the White House Council on Environmental Quality in Denver, Colorado on July 19th to discuss the impacts of climate change on agriculture and help develop federal recommendations for climate change adaption.

The initial recommendations of a blue ribbon committee convened by American Farmland Trust to address major challenges facing California agriculture were accepted by the State Board of Food & Agriculture, the principal agriculture advisor to Governor Schwarzenegger.

A new project will bring cleaner water to Upper Salt Fork Watershed in Illinois.

An updated guide, Conservation Options for Connecticut Farmland, describes farmland conservation options in Connecticut to farm and forest landowners, land trusts, and municipalities.

Virginia university is offering a new benefit for employees to purchase local food through payroll deductions.

Legislation recently enacted in Rhode Island gives the Rhode Island Attorney General new authority to enforce conservation easements, making Rhode Island the eighth state in the country to give its attorney general such explicit enforcement power. 

The New York Times reported this week on a House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee panel decision regarding proposed cuts for energy and conservation in the omnibus agriculture spending bill. The bill will now move to the Senate for consideration.

Licking County, Ohio has lost more than 20,000 acres of farmland in the past 10 years. A preservation program started by the Ohio Department of Agriculture has protected about 33,400 acres since 2002. Nevertheless, that only represents seven percent of requests! This article from The Newark Advocate discusses the high demand for financial support in preserving the county’s farmland.

The heat is on for the farm bill and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson has set expectations for a final farm bill at the end of next year.

North Dakota’s Congressman Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) seems to believe the federal budget situation will drive the 2012 Farm Bill process. "We're going to have to do more with less. The core things we need to focus on is how do we preserve the essential protections in the Farm Bill? Protection against radical price swings and collapse, protection against production failure; I think we need to start there," he said at a House farm bill field hearing.

The United States Department of Agriculture has invested in 11 businesses is 9 states to support regional food systems with rural development loans. 

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