Combating Cuts to Conservation, Local Food Lands at Airports, and the Search for America's Favorite Farmers Market

American Farmland Trust
American Farmland Trust

E-News June 16, 2011
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.

Green Energy Meets Farmland

Solar-Panels.jpgCalifornia has committed to producing 33 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. Windmills already dot the state with more to come, and dozens of large-scale solar energy facilities are also being planned. Because many deserts and other uncultivated lands harbor endangered or threatened species, they are not considered appropriate for solar facilities. The challenge then is avoiding prime farmland in favor of land that is less productive. Legislation sponsored by Senator Lois Wolk, SB 618, would establish criteria for siting large-scale solar and other renewable energy facilities on farmland. We have helped shape this legislation and are working with the Brown Administration to assure that California can meet its future food and renewable energy needs.


Canadian Agricultural Leader Visits Chesapeake Bay to Learn About Keeping Farms Viable While Protecting the Environment

Ches.-Bay.jpgJamshed Merchant, Assistant Deputy Minister of Canada’s Agri-Environment Services Branch (AESB) has embarked on a fact-finding mission to see how Canada might learn from the successful Chesapeake Bay Program model that has been operating here since the 1980s. He recently met with Jim Baird, our Mid-Atlantic Director, and Dennis Nuxoll, Managing Director of Federal Policy, to discuss our efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay. The meeting focused on three main themes: the need to work on common ground issues with agricultural leaders who are developing innovative solutions; the utility of an effective regulatory framework that addresses the unique concerns of farming; and the need to build a culture of collaboration among farm and environmental groups.

New Study Calls for Better Tracking of Conservation Practices

Bird Wading in Chesapeake Bay TributaryA committee of the National Research Council has released a two-year evaluation of the Chesapeake Bay Program, citing successes and challenges to the restoration approach. With 2025 set as the targeted reduction date, significant changes need to occur throughout the watershed and throughout the partnership. The new two-year milestone system to focus efforts to better track conservation practices was signaled out for praise. Our BMP Challenge program is one strategy currently being implemented to work with farmers on lowering fertilizer usage on farmland, resulting in decreased runoff and soil erosion.  

New England

A Vision for Rhode Island Agriculture

A-Vision-for-Rhode-Island-A.jpgPresented to Governor Lincoln Chafee and state lawmakers at Rhode Island’s Agriculture Day in May, A Vision for Rhode Island Agriculture: Five Year Strategic Plan culminates a year of outreach to Rhode Island’s diverse agricultural community. More than 400 people participated in the planning process that we facilitated to identify opportunities and challenges for the state’s farming sector while developing and prioritizing goals and strategies. Thanks to the leadership of the Rhode Island Agricultural Partnership and the van Beuren Charitable Foundation, Rhode Islanders now have a plan that lays out how consumers, communities, lawmakers and state agencies can build a stronger and more resilient food system and farm economy.   

Connecticut Continues Its Commitment to Farmland Protection

CT-Farm.jpgDespite a challenging economic climate, Governor Dannel Malloy and members of the General Assembly demonstrated their strong commitment to farmland preservation by authorizing $10 million per year in new bond funding for 2012 and 2013. This funding is needed to maintain the increased pace of land protection under the state’s Farmland Preservation Program, which is likely to protect more than 20 farms in 2011. As the legislative session ended, state leaders also revised the Community Investment Act to restore funding to the Farmland Preservation Program while continuing the state’s safety net for dairy farmers.   

Vermont Enacts Agricultural Jobs Bill

Vermont-Dairy.jpgLegislation introduced by Governor Peter Shumlin to grow jobs in agriculture has been enacted by the Vermont legislature. House Bill 287 begins the process of addressing barriers and opportunities identified through Vermont’s Farm to Plate Strategic Plan. The bill creates a grant program to help farmers obtain Good Agricultural Practice certification, among other programs. Additionally, it establishes a local food coordinator position and creates an education loan repayment program for large animal vets.  

New York

Bills Roundup

capitol,-egg,-reflecting-po.jpgWith just a couple of days left in the 2011 session of the New York State Legislature, there are a number of bills still pending that have the potential to generate new opportunities to protect farmland, strengthen the Environmental Protection Fund and enhance farm profitability. The bills proposed cover a broad range. One bill is the Farmers Regulatory Relief Act. Another would transition bottle bill revenue to the Environmental Protection Fund and the Farmers Regulatory Relief Act, while others would extend the ability of towns to make installment payments to conserve farmland and allow the selling of wine in grocery stores to raise money for farmland protection. As the legislative session draws to a close, there are still opportunities to take action in support of these bills.

Young Farmers Come to Western New York Town

root-down-farm-photo-by-Kat.jpgYoung farmers Steve Blabac and Erin Grimley have moved to the town of Clarence in northwestern Erie County to run Root Down Farm, a Community Supported Agriculture farm. They are currently renting a farm in the town and are interested in acquiring additional farmland through Clarence’s Greenprint program, a local farmland conservation program funded by a $12.5 million bond the town approved in 2002 to protect farmland and open space. The Western New York Land Conservancy has been instrumental in protecting farmland through the Greenprint and in recruiting new farmers.

Chill Out: It’s Time for Sundae on the Farm

Sundae-on-the-Farm-2008-039.jpgFifty years ago there were 1,800 farms in Saratoga County. Today there are only 641. Fewer people are directly involved in farming and do not have the opportunity to experience agriculture first-hand to understand how the food we eat is produced. Saratoga County’s Sundae on the Farm links the farming community and the public by bringing thousands of people annually to visit a local farm. This year’s event will be held on Sunday, June 19 from noon through 4:00 pm at Clear Echo Farm, LLC, a dairy located in the Town of Northumberland.

Pacific Northwest

Tactor_signCounty Farmland Protection Study in the Puget Sound Region

Our Pacific Northwest office is beginning a study this month of farmland protection programs in the 14 counties of the Puget Sound region in western Washington. We are looking at agricultural zoning, purchase and transfer of development rights programs, tax relief, and other tools in each of the counties and will be developing a scorecard for each county. The study will culminate this fall in awards to the top-ranked counties.

A Strategic Plan for the Skagit Valley

Skagit.jpgWe are completing work on a strategic plan for the Skagit Farmland Legacy program, which purchases development rights on farmland in the Skagit Valley. The new plan fine-tunes procedures for soliciting, reviewing, and ranking proposals from area farmers and identifies potential funding sources for increasing the scale of the program. The revised plan will be presented to the Skagit County Commissioners on June 22. 

Environmental Markets Workshop

Pacific-Northwest.jpgWe recently co-hosted a workshop with the Oregon-based Willamette Partnership on environmental markets in the Pacific Northwest. Leaders of nonprofit groups from across the region gathered to discuss their market initiatives, the opportunities and constraints they are facing, and how we can work together to expand and accelerate market development.

Puget Sound Foodshed Study

Foodshed-Study.jpgOur staff is beginning work on the Puget Sound Foodshed Study this month with early planning work on how to "map" the flow of food between producers and consumers, a surprisingly difficult task due to the many food imports and exports in the region. The study is being funded in part by the University of Washington and Whole Foods Market.

Main Stories

Conservation Program Cuts Put Agricultural Lands and Food Security at Risk

Conservation.jpgWith dramatic cuts to conservation programs, the recently passed House Appropriations Bill, “is risky and simply short-sighted when it comes to protecting our nation’s agricultural resources for a healthy future for America,” explains our president Jon Scholl. “Cutting over half a billion dollars in this year’s budget and targeting crucial and effective programs by another 20 percent or more in the 2012 budget is a dangerous step in the wrong direction, and we hope the Senate will restore some or all of these funds." The nation’s farm and ranch land is needed to help feed a growing population—projected to reach more than 10 billion by the end of the century. Share your comments and help us build a strong message to ensure that the Senate deals more fairly with funding that impacts America’s farms and ranches. 

Vote for Your Favorite Farmers Markets

shopping-with-mom.jpgAll you have to do is read the comments shared by voters in America’s Favorite Farmers Markets™ contest to get a view of the unique blend of food, farms, sustainability and community that is found in farmers markets across the country. Our annual contest promotes the connection between fresh, local food and the farms and farmland that supply it. Vote now for your most cherished farmers markets to win in this year’s America’s Favorite Farmers Marketscontest, and share your story of why you care about supporting local farms at the farmers market. Your comment may appear on the Farmland Report! Once you have voted, help your farmers market manager spread the word this summer with our outreach toolbox.

What's the Future for Farm Subsidies?

USCapitol.jpgAn old farm bill program is getting new attention. Discussions surrounding both 2012 budget appropriations and long-term deficit reduction are focusing on the Direct Payments farm subsidy program as a target for cuts. In the House, an amendment to cut Direct Payments by $20 million a year was passed in the appropriations committee but later proposed to be stripped out, a decision that remained pending as the House continued to vote through Thursday. In addition, the budget negotiations led by Vice President Biden are targeting the program for up to $30 billion in cuts over 10 years. This may or may not fly with the House Agriculture Committee, where 15 freshmen members are caught between their deficit cutting commitments, their constituents, and in some cases their own wallets as a number benefit from these subsidies. As we have found in talking with farmers across the country, these debates are in many ways welcomed, providing the opportunity to build a more effective safety net for farmers.

Farm-to-Flight Takes Off

Farm-ot-Flight.jpgLooking for options from local farms during your next layover? Local food has found a place at the San Francisco International Airport with the unveiling of the renovated Terminal 2. The first of its kind in the United States, the local food corridor features a majority of vendors that serve locally sourced healthy food, providing a unique opportunity for travelers to enjoy regional food and support local farmers.

Around the Country

Climate change will undoubtedly have a tremendous impact on farms, farming and the food needed to feed a growing population, highlights the New York Times.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack kicked off the summer season at the USDA’s farmers market, remarking on the movement to connect urban communities with farmers. Also on display was the USDA’s People’s Garden and DC Central Kitchen’s educational Truck Farm.  

The Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture has launched a new program to help aspiring farmers locate and lease land, a program that has been met with much enthusiasm by the state where the average age of farmers is 57.

Lucasfilm Foundation, the charitable foundation of famed director George Lucas, is helping the Marin Agricultural Land Trust acquire a conservation easement on the historic fifth generation Corda Ranch near Novato, California.

With an improved budget forecast on his hands, Delaware Governor Jack Markell has recommended restoring $10 million to the state’s Agricultural Land Preservation program, using $3 million of those funds for an initiative that would help jump start the ventures of young farmers.

After the Utah Legislature voted to cut state farmland protection funds, a group of leaders—from government to farmers to environmental representatives—has formed a task force to find ways to preserve farmland.

A new program titled Our Local Food and funded by the Kansas Department of Agriculture is working to bring together local growers with consumers.

A report from the Liberty Prairie Foundation of Illinois reviews the incorporation of agriculture in new community design by featuring five case studies from across the country.

In New Jersey, a new generation of young adults interested in farming is seeing a demand for their locally grown food, but they face the challenge of finding affordable land to cultivate.

From June 20 to 26, celebrate the butterflies, bees and other winged creatures that help pollinate the summer’s fruits and vegetables with Pollinator Week events across the country.

Farmers are finding ways to diversify their businesses through agritourism. California leads the industry with nearly 700 farms adding an average of $50,000 in income through agritourism.

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association has released its summer tour schedule, featuring a variety of visits and demonstrations throughout the state.

A report from the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Washington notes that changing climate conditions are putting fruit and nut production at risk, resulting in an uncertain future for farmers.

The USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory, now in the process of its annual update, can provide economic and policy benefits.

The 11th Annual New Partners for Smart Growth Conference, scheduled for February 2 to 4, 2012, in San Diego, California, has opened up submission for session proposals.

USDA’s new nutrition guidelines to promote healthier eating are symbolized in the recently unveiled icon, My Plate, which replaces the previous food pyramid.

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