Three Actions You Can Take Today for the Future of Farms, Food and Our Environment

American Farmland Trust
American Farmland Trust

E-News June 10, 2010

Welcome to the June 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 Cuts Farmland Protection Funding by Half

New York Cut Grass

A budget showdown between Governor Paterson and the New York Legislature over reopening 55 parks in time for Memorial Day resulted in cuts to the Farmland Protection Program of $11.25 million as part of a $78 million cut to the state’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). The deal also resulted in the release of $11 million in funding to reopen state parks.

We continue to advocate for farm and food programs facing severe budget cuts and a plan to repay the half billion dollars that has been swept from the Environmental Protection Fund over the past several years for non-environmental purposes. Get the full picture of the funding cuts.

Farm to Table Co-Packers Open for Business

Farm to Chef Program This new food processing and contract packaging facility in a retrofitted cafeteria at a former IBM plant in Kingston is an economic shot in the arm for Hudson Valley farmers. The facility can produce everything from frozen produce and baked goods to meat products. “We are here. Our doors are open. We are ready for opportunity,” declared Farm to Table partner Jim Hyland. And so were their clients, including companies like Rick’s Picks, a pickler of locally produced veggies, and The Manhattan Chili Co., whose owners hope to leverage their new processing location into better connections with local farmers.

Sweet: It’s Time for Sundae on the Farm

Sundae on the FarmSaratoga County’s 15th annual Sundae on the Farm event will be held June 20th at Arnoldhaven Farm, a Charlton dairy farm, to raise awareness of the importance of local farming. Fifty years ago there were 1,800 farms in Saratoga County, while only 641 remain today. Sundae on the Farm allows people to visit a real working farm. Free events include tours of the dairy farm, farm animals, wagon rides, agricultural exhibits, cooking demonstrations by local chefs, a farmers market, an ice cream eating contest and more. The event is sponsored by a partnership of local organizations including American Farmland Trust, which has a New York office based in Saratoga Springs.

New England

Progress Report on Farmland Protection in Connecticut

Chickens in Salem ConnecticutAfter more than 30 years of preservation activity and despite recent increases in funding by the state and its many partners, Working Lands Alliance estimates that only 36% of the statewide goal for farmland protection—130,000 acres—has been reached. The goal of 130,000 acres protected-set in 1980 and based upon 1976 food production and consumption levels-was established in order to supply a portion of the state's total consumption. Plowing Ahead: Farmland Preservation in 2010 and Beyond reports that at the current rate of farmland protection, the program won't reach its goal until 2090, by which time continued farmland loss might have made the goal obsolete.

 Chesapeake Bay

The 64,000 Mile Chesapeake Bay Plan

Bird Wading in Chesapeake Bay TributaryA new federal strategy was unveiled last month for protecting and restoring the health of the 64,000 square-mile Chesapeake Bay region and its communities. The strategy was developed under the Executive Order issued by President Obama a year ago that designated the bay as a national treasure and enacted a new multi-tier action and accountability scheme. Within the region’s four million acres of agricultural land, we're supporting viable farms and clean water by helping farmers adopt conservation practices that reduce nitrogen and phosphorus and by securing farmland protection measures while working with agricultural and environmental partners on sensible policies and programs.


A Farmland Preservation Local Hero

Karen Morrow is the first recipient of the Pennsylvania Farmland Preservation Local Heroes Award presented by American Farmland Trust for farmland preservation work. Karen pioneered Agricultural Security Areas and conservation easements in Blair County, helping to establish a farmland preservation program in the 1980s and  ‘90s. She is being honored by American Farmland Trust for her dedication to preserving farmland in her area from unplanned development. Karen and her husband John own the seventh preserved farm in Blair County, which they protected with a conservation easement in 1997. The Morrows own two farms and actively farm in the "Sinking Valley Area" of Tyrone Township.


Support Farm Viability by Paying One a Visit

Montana Cowboy

The Rural Landscape Institute is working to preserve the economic vitality of agriculture in the American West through its Farm and Ranch Recreation Resource Center. The web-based clearinghouse provides information on how farmers and ranchers can diversify their revenue streams through agritourism. A central feature of the Resource Center is a comprehensive database of initiatives in seven states, including Colorado, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. The listing is an ongoing effort and the organization is continually looking for more ventures to promote within the region. Visit the project’s website to join the network or to learn more.  

Montana Convenes Stakeholders, Plans for Agriculture

Missoula Montana FarmlandIn an inspiring cooperative effort in Missoula, Montana, agricultural producers, landowners, food retailers, conservationists, architects, developers, nutritionists, anti-hunger advocates, public officials, and local food eaters have developed a plan for local agriculture, Losing Ground: The Future of Farms and Food in Missoula County. The report was assembled by the Community Food & Agriculture Coalition (CFAC) which has a mission to address “community needs related to food and agriculture in a comprehensive and creative way,” and is working to “develop and strengthen Missoula County’s food system, promoting sustainable agriculture, building regional self-reliance, and assuring all citizens equal access to healthy, affordable and culturally appropriate food.”

North Carolina

North Carolina Farms Need Your Help!

North Carolina FarmThe North Carolina Conservation Trust is running an action alert to make sure that the final FY2011 budget includes a crucial $2 million for farmland preservation. Respond to this call to action from North Carolina Conservation Trust: As the conference committee begins its work this week, please contact your legislators and thank them for the House and Senate’s strong support of the CWMTF, and urge them to include $2 million for farmland preservation in the final budget proposal. Use this action alert from Land for Tomorrow to make your voice heard


Whither the Williamson Act?

CA Orchard-Photo by Gordon CinnamondFunding for California’s most significant farmland preservation policy is still in doubt as the state struggles to close its huge budget gap. The Williamson Act provides property tax relief to farmers and ranchers who agree not to develop their land for at least ten years. The funding cutoff threatens state reimbursements to local government for the loss of revenue, which could force cities and counties to cancel agreements with landowners. Our California Director Ed Thompson has called for improvements in Williamson to make it more effective.

 Main Stories

Helping A Renowned Wine Region Grow Greener

David Walsh in the Vineyard

Wine and juice grape growers in Washington's Yakima Valley region must deal with the threat from insects that cutworms that eat and destroy budding grapes in early spring. Thanks in part to an integrated pest management grant from the Environmental Protection Agency and American Farmland Trust, entomologist Doug Walsh from Washington State University hit upon a more environmentally friendly solution for addressing the threat—one that is saving growers about $5.5 million a year and has reduced insecticide use by 84 percent. “It is a total success story,” says Hogue Ranches viticulturist Rick Hamman. Unfortunately, critical funding is in jeopardy for this program and others across the country that help farmers reduce their pesticide use. Take action now to keep these environmentally beneficial programs going.

What Is a Farmers Market? And Why Is Yours the Best?

The question “What is a farmers market?” may be answered differently depending on who you ask, but thanks to the Farmers Market Coalition, a national definition for farmers markets is coming into focus. The Farmers Market Coalition is a national organization dedicated to strengthening farmers markets for the benefit of farmers, consumers and communities.

You are the only person who can tell us why you think your farmers market is the best! Cast your vote and share why you love your farmers market. We will send your comments to your market manager and policy makers to help your farmers market grow!

Farm & Food Policy Considerations for the 2012 Farm Bill

Capital Hill at NightWork on the 2012 Farm Bill by the House Agriculture Committee began this spring via a series of field hearings. The new farm bill represents an opportunity to enhance the protection of America's farmland, promote sound environmental practices on farms, reduce our dependence on oil by harnessing the ability of farms and ranches to provide clean, renewable energy, and develop a healthy food system consistent with thriving farms, ranches and rural communities.    

The House Agriculture Committee would like to hear from you! Read our talking points, visit the website by June 14th and share your thoughts on what the future of farm and food policy should look like.

 Around the Country

In Missoula, Montana, developers and farmland advocates put aside their differences to come up with a plan for agriculture: Losing Ground: The Future of Farms and Food in Missoula County.

The Working Lands Alliance in Connecticut releases a progress report on farmland protection.

Alabama’s legislature is considering the Family Farm Preservation Act, which provides that farm operations, if operated lawfully under certain conditions, may not be characterized as public or private nuisances or be determined to be in violation of a municipal or county ordinance.

Beginning farmers could be getting a break in Minnesota with an income tax credit.

The Rural Landscape Institute is developing a Resource Center with a comprehensive database of agritourism opportunities in seven states, including Colorado, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. The listing is an ongoing effort and the organization is continually looking for more ventures to promote within the region.

North Carolina may gain two new Transfer of Development Rights programs in Currituck County and Chatham County.

New statistics show the positive benefits of local food for Michigan’s economy.

Summer days remind us that "Food Independence Day" is just around the corner. Be sure you sign the pledge and petition this year.

A new Center for Rural Virginia will expand and promote opportunities for agriculture.

A new Wisconsin bill creates a farm to school council within Wisconsin’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to promote the use of locally grown food in school meals and snacks.

Maryland creates a Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission and Prince George’s County gains a new PACE program.

Ann Sorensen, Director of Research for American Farmland Trust, will be lending her scientific expertise to the Farm, Ranch, and Rural Communities Committee for the Environmental Protection Agency.

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