Looking Toward the Future of our Landscapes, Water Resources, and Conservation Programs

American Farmland Trust
American Farmland Trust

E-News March 14, 2011
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.


Regional Planning in California’s San Joaquin Valley

San-Joaqin-Valley-Peach-Orc.jpgThe San Joaquin Valley is California’s leading agricultural area, responsible for more than $20 billion in annual food production. It is also one of the fastest-growing areas in the country, losing six square miles of farmland a year to urban development. Until 2004, there was no regional planning for growth in the valley; just eight counties and more than 30 cities going their own way. Today, however, there are at least three separate regional planning exercises taking place, each with its own objectives, timetable and leadership. What will emerge from all this planning is a legitimate question, and the fate of the region’s irreplaceable, world-class farmland hangs in the balance.

Ask the Maryland General Assembly to stop cuts to farmland protection programs!

 Arial FarmlandMaryland’s Department of Legislative Services has proposed to permanently cut funds dedicated to land conservation. Initiatives that are threatened, including Program Open Space and the Rural Legacy Program, help ensure a healthy future for the state through supporting the economy, helping to face environmental challenges, and providing food for a growing population.

Not only will these proposed cuts harm immediate farmland protection needs, but also set the tone for limited funding in the future.

Please take action: Ask the Maryland General Assembly to stop cuts to farmland protection programs!

New England

Help Spread the No Farms No Food® Message at Ag Day

No Farms No FoodJoin us for the Connecticut and Massachusetts Ag Days. Joined by Working Lands Alliance, we will speak with state leaders about our top legislative priorities in Connecticut [PDF] on March 16. The popular event will be held in the Hall of Flags of the State Capitol in Hartford from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Three weeks later, we will meet with legislators on Thursday, April 7 at the State House in Boston for Massachusetts Agriculture Day. The day will include a “Taste of Massachusetts” reception in the Great Hall featuring farm and specialty food products from across the state. Contact us for more information about how to join these opportunities to remind elected leaders of the importance of agriculture
and to spread the No Farms No Food® message.   

New York

Time to Register! No Farms No Food® Rally & Lobby Day, March 30

David Haight at No Farms No Food RallyRegister now for the No Farms No Food® Rally & Lobby Day, March 30 at the New York State Capitol in Albany. The advocacy agenda includes support for programs that protect farmland from development, provide economic opportunity for farmers and food businesses, and make nutritious, locally grown foods available to all New Yorkers by expanding farmers markets, supporting community gardens and feeding the hungry with fresh food grown by New York farmers. The free event runs from 9:30 to 4:00 p.m. and includes a local foods lunch. Free bus transportation is available roundtrip from New York City to Albany. Visit our website for more information, to read and sign on to the agenda of legislative priorities, or call (518) 581-0078.

Farming: The Next Generation

Helping-the-Next-Generation.jpgOur next webinar, Helping a “New Generation” Succeed in Farming, will be offered on March 16. It is one of a series of webinars to help communities support their local farms. This webinar will look at how towns and counties can attract new farmers and farm families and keep farming viable in their communities. Presenters will be Marissa Codey, Senior Farmland Protection Manager, Columbia Land Conservancy, and Michelle Hughes, Director, New Farmer Development Project, New York City Greenmarket.

Hot Off the Press: Hudson Valley Food & Farming Reports

Hudson-Valley-Food-Systems-.jpgThe Hudson Valley Agribusiness Development Corporation, which supports the growth of the Hudson Valley’s agricultural economy, has released a new report, Understanding Food Systems: Identifying Business Opportunities for Hudson Valley Farmers and Food Entrepreneurs, which provides a review of the market-based relationships that create the framework for local and regional food systems. A second report, The State of Agriculture in the Hudson Valley, published by the Glynwood Center, offers a detailed picture of agriculture in the region.

Pacific Northwest

Environmental Markets for Northwest Farmers and Ranchers

New Guide to Environmental MarketsWe are following up on the publication of the Guide to Environmental Markets for Farmers and Ranchers with several projects to open markets to agriculture.  Recently, we joined a group of community organizations led by Climate Solutions to consider ways to move forward with cost-effective, farmer-supported carbon sequestration projects despite the national stalemate on climate policy. Now we are beginning work on a first-of-its-kind cooperative to organize farmers to participate in emerging environmental markets. We will soon be hosting a meeting of environmental market leaders from across the Northwest to discuss how to cooperate on establishing farmer-friendly markets in the region. And speaking of the Guide, we have a pretty good supply of them in our office.  Call us (206) 860-4222 if we can send you some copies. At the moment, we can handle orders up to a box (75 copies).

Skagit County Farmland Protection Strategic Plan

Washington-farm-snowy-mount.jpgWe are working with the Skagit County Farmland Legacy Program to prepare a strategic plan for their purchase of conservation easement program. The Skagit program is a Northwest leader, providing $1 million per year to protect farmland with conservation easements. We are using a GIS analysis to evaluate several strategic options, including reinforcing the urban/rural boundary in the developing Interstate-5 corridor and protecting a core of highly productive farmland in the central valley. The Skagit Valley is the most intact and productive farm landscape in western Washington; protecting this land is of great significance to the region. 

Main Stories

Working Toward 21st Century Solutions at National Agricultural Landscape Forum

Girl-with-Watermelon.jpgHow much land and water do we need to meet present and future demands for food, energy and environmental services? Recognizing tight budgets and multiple resource demands, 21st century solutions will require greater cooperation between farmers and ranchers, federal, state and local governments and private partners to focus on conservation outcomes.

Toward this end, USDA has partnered with us and Farm Foundation NFP to host a National Agricultural Landscape Forum in Washington D.C. on April 7-8, 2011. The forum is guided by a Blue Ribbon Panel of leaders in agriculture and conservation and is part of the public input process required by the Soil and Water Resources Conservation Act (RCA) to improve the effectiveness of federal conservation and rural development programs. Come make your voice heard! Register now for the opportunity to take part in this critically important dialogue.

Charting New Waters Coalition: A Pledge to Protect Our Water

Washington Apple OrchardAs the single largest user of land and water resources in America, farmers and ranchers can be a major part of the solution to the environmental challenge of water quality. That is why we have joined the Charting New Waters coalition, committing to help preserve our freshwater resources. You, too, can pledge to protect America’s waterways by taking our Clean Water Challenge: Match a Farmer’s Commitment

Strong Economic Future Needs Conservation Programs

U.S.-Capitol.jpgWhat’s on the horizon for the agriculture economy in 2011? Our president Jon Scholl offers his reflection from the USDA’s annual Ag Outlook Forum. The message was clear: the loss of farmland and increased demand for sustainably produced food and fuel puts even more pressure on our working lands. Yet right now, federal funds for conservation are in jeopardy. Help us protect programs that farmers need to provide a healthy future—ask the Senate to stop cuts to hard-won conservation programs!    

Around the Country

At a meeting in Cayuga County, New York,  farmers in the Owasco Lake watershed came together to address challenges to water quality regulation in the area.

Anita Zurbrugg, our Midwest Director, Center for Agriculture in the Environment, will speak at the annual meeting of the Boone County, IL Farmland Protection Project on March 26. The group, one of only three organizations in Illinois that focuses on protecting farmland, is located in one of the most development-threatened counties in the Chicago metro area.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection released a Land and Water Conservation Directory, providing a listing of valuable resources and agencies working on environmental issues in the state.

The Congress for New Urbanisim will address the close relationship between Madison, Wisconsin, and the city’s agricultural neighbors in their annual conference.

Help develop real-world projects to address local and regional food issues at the Making Good Food Work meeting, April 19-21 in Detroit, Michigan.

A group of Pacific Northwest organizations has outlined six key tenets they pledge to follow as they work toward the 2012 Farm Bill. The Seattle Farm Bill Principles include a focus on conservation practices, equitable access to healthy foods, and a commitment to strengthening local communities.

Whole Foods Markets in Florida are helping to get local food moving from farm-to-table more easily. The specialty grocer will now serve as a drop-off point for Community Supported Agriculture programs in the state.  

Green Mountain College in Vermont will continue its for-credit summer program in sustainable agriculture. In its third year, the Farm and Food Intensive covers both traditional and more innovative management techniques that incorporate conservation practices.

A researcher out of Washington state was recently awarded the 2011 Wolf Foundation Prize in recognition for his contributions to agriculture research. Among the accolades James Cook received involved his work related to the positive impacts of no-till crops.

In North Carolina, the conservation coalition, Land for Tomorrow, has released a report demonstrating the positive impact that land and water conservation have on the economy. Among impacted areas are job creation, taxes and tourism.

The White House recently released the America’s Great Outdoors Report. Among issues addressed were the protection of public and private lands, historic sites and the importance of land trusts to achieve preservation goals. 

Beginning April 1, a series of meetings in Iowa will address opportunities to connect women who manage farmland with beginning farmers. Women own or co-own nearly half the farmland in the state.

Mark your calendars! On March 14, general sign-up for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) will begin, continuing through April 15.

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