American Farmland Trust

E-News March 11, 2010

Welcome to the March 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

No Farms No Food Rally, March 15th, Albany

No Farms No Food Rally

Where do folks who feed the hungry in the soup kitchens of Brooklyn, Western New York dairy farmers and supporters of Hudson Valley land trusts meet? At the No Farms No Food Rally! American Farmland Trust is bringing farmers, food advocates, land trusts, conservationists and local governments from Buffalo to New York City together at the State Capitol to tell legislators that protecting farmland and supporting agriculture provides food security, clean water and a strong economy for all New Yorkers.

Get the Agenda, Talking Points and More!

Or contact our New York office at newyork@farmland.org or (518) 581-0078.

New York City Calls for Farmland Protection

Manhattan SkylineThe report Food NYC: A Blueprint for a Sustainable Food System, recently released by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, highlights the tremendous importance of farm and food issues to all New Yorkers. Specifically the report calls for a state strategy for farmland and food production; accelerating protection of New York’s farmland; modernizing Hunts Point; strengthening farmers markets, food processing and distribution capacity; and mandating regional procurement of food by city agencies. New Yorkers need a stronger, healthier, economically viable farm and food system. 

Connecticut

Keynote Address by USDA Deputy Secretary Merrigan at Plowing Ahead Conference

Working Lands Alliance Logo

Join us for Working Lands Alliance’s tenth anniversary to examine the past decade of progress and help craft a vision for farmland preservation in Connecticut over the next ten years at our conference on Saturday March 27th at Kroon Hall, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, New Haven. Plowing Ahead: Farmland Preservation in 2010 & Beyond will feature a keynote address by Kathleen Merrigan, USDA Deputy Secretary of Agriculture and an introduction by Representative Rosa DeLauro. A special thanks to our 18 sponsors, including our lead sponsor, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Register Online Today!

"Speak Up for Agriculture" Lobby Day!

Connecticut barnJoin American Farmland Trust and Working Lands Alliance, along with CT Farm Bureau, CT NOFA, CitySeed and other agriculture supporters on Thursday March 18th between 9am and 3pm for a lobby day at the State Capitol in Hartford. Visit with producers during ‘Ag Day’ in the Hall of Flags and urge state leaders to oppose any raid on the Community Investment Act Fund, to support the growth of small farm enterprises and local food options, and to maintain annual capital bonding commitments of $10 million per year for the preservation of prime and important farmland.

Chesapeake Bay

Vibrant Farms and Clean Water: The Conversations Continue

Reasonable Assurance Webinar We are engaging thoughtful farm leaders to address how we clean up the bay and keep thriving farms. One example of this conversation was a webinar conducted last Thursday answering the question: ”What can be built into policies, programs or regulations aimed at improving conservation and water quality to ensure the plan will be implemented?” Behind the theories and the fine print, members of the agricultural community are working out approaches that strike a balance between their commitment to stewardship, the public's right to know, and running a successful agricultural enterprise.

Working Lands Forum Meets Development Challenges Head On

Farms on Edge of DevelopmentNext month a working lands forum in the greater District of Columbia metro area will be asking the question: “Given that growth projections will add an additional two million residents to the region in the next 25 years, can local farms and other 'green and open space' lands survive?” The forum, Working Lands Forum II: The Growing Local Challenge, to be held on April 21st, will tackle the problem of the intense development pressure facing farms in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.

Virginia

County in Virginia’s Peach Alley Speaks the Universal Language of Food

Peaches Growing in a TreeVirginia’s Fauquier County was awarded a $25,000 grant to spur new markets for you-pick farms by reaching out to the diversity of ethnic culture in the area. The new grant will help farmers learn the unique tastes of their culturally diverse neighbors and help them get the word out about their farm products in an array of native languages.

Wisconsin

Working Lands Initiative Under Assault

Wisconsin Dairy BarnThe Wisconsin Realtors Association is leading efforts to repeal or delay the conversion fee on lands removed from farmland preservation zoning districts. A bill (SB-576) to do this has been introduced in the Senate and Assembly. Realtors are flooding capitol offices with calls supporting the bill. Your legislators need to hear from you! The conversion fee is an important part of the popular Working Lands Initiative. It supports many aspects of this farm and farmland saving program, including Agricultural Enterprise Areas, grants to counties to update farmland plans and agricultural conservation easements.

Call your state senator and assembly representative on the legislative hotline at 1-800-362-9472. 

Vibrant Farms and Clean Water: A New Conversation

Sunrise over Ewing Farm in IndianaFarmers, soil and water conservation staff, certified crop advisors and others in Bluffton and Terre Haute, Indiana, came together this March to discuss the issues we'll face in developing the nation's first regional water quality trading market. The conversations about farmer’s key role in this approach for clean water were cautiously optimistic and demonstrate that for a water quality program to work for farmers, it must be worth their time, must recognize and reward good stewards and must allow for farmers to adapt their practices to changes in farming over time. Our partners in planning these workshops included the Indiana Farm Bureau and the Conservation Technology Information Center.

Main Stories

Designing Our Urban and Rural Landscapes for Healthy Food 

Food AtlasYou can now map your food environment across ninety indicators—from direct farm sales per capita to number of supermarkets per 1,000 people to obesity rates—with the United States Department of Agriculture's online Food Environment Atlas. This brand new resource is reframing food as a planning tool that can be used to reshape our landscapes for a healthier future. Explore more resources about the issues and policies that are evolving around local food, farms and farmland.

Manure. Not just a dirty story

Peter MelnikManure. While, it’s a fact of life on farms and contains organic nutrients that help crops grow, The Washington Post notes the increasing volume of manure can spell environmental problems if not well managed.

Along the Skykomish River, farmer Dale Reiner and others are working with the local Tulalip Indian tribe to turn excess manure into methane gas and compost—while keeping the water clean to benefit the culturally-important salmon. Peter Melnik is part of a group that found a unique way to manage manure to benefit farms and the environment. We hope the adage, “manure is the smell of money,” holds true as groups work through challenges in our regulatory system and make substantial investments to keep the land and their farms healthy.

Clearing up the Confusion on Conservation Easements

Coleman_with_grandsonsDo conservation easements affect the sustainability of farming? While a recent article calls into question the merits of conservation easements in providing for the future viability of farms subject to an easement, our farmland protection experts have cleared up the confusion. With more than two million acres of farm and ranch land across the country protected with agricultural conservation easements by state and local purchase of agricultural conservation easement programs, it’s clear that agricultural conservation easements work!

The Clock Is Ticking for Farms in the Ideas for Change in America Contest

Ticking ClockSince the beginning of the final round of Change.org’s “Ideas for Change” contest, our idea has been at the top of the list thanks to our supporters who believe in this cause! We need your support for this final push. If you haven’t voted yet, please vote today to help us put farmland protection, healthy farming practices and support for farmers and ranchers on every state's agenda. Winning this contest could add one million voices to the fight to protect our nation's most precious resource. 

Around the Country

Atlanta, Georgia is host to The Big Deal – Brownfields 2010 conference to revitalize America.

In Wisconsin, more than 200,000 acres have already been proposed for Agricultural Enterprise Area Designation. Also, the applications for 2010 funding for the 2010 PACE program are up! Deadline for submittal is June 1st.

Get the latest update on the "pollution diet" for the Chesapeake Bay watershed.The Environmental Protection Agency’s next webinar is scheduled for Thursday, March 25 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m

Our 2010 New York Agricultural Landowner Guide is an indispensable tool for farmers and rural landowners trying to navigate a sometimes confusing array of public programs.

Washington state is looking to establish a food policy council, which will help manage the swath of issues surrounding the states farms and food. 

A proposed piece of legislation in Washington would require state government entities to “look before they leap” by reviewing the impact of the land use decisions on farmland by completing agriculture impact statements prior to acquiring land.

Hawaii is focusing on their state energy and food self sufficiency.

A proposed amendment to the National School Lunch Act incorporates $50 million in grants and advice for farm-to-school programs.

Maryland is looking to the future with the Smart, Green and Growing - The Sustainable Communities Act of 2010.

The United States Department of Agriculture announces the 2010 Farmers Market Promotion Program grant opportunities.



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