Changes for the Farm Bill, Our Landscapes and Farmland in the 21st Century, and Farmers Markets by the Numbers

American Farmland Trust
American Farmland Trust

E-News May 3, 2011
Welcome to the May 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.

Water, Water Everywhere, But …

CA-Water.jpgA new report calls for a fundamental change in the way scarce water resources are allocated in California. Because of the state’s semi-arid climate, agriculture and cities are almost entirely dependent on developed, rather than natural, water supplies. Tension between environmental interests and agriculture, which uses 70 percent of the state’s water, has existed for decades.

Now, however, an expert panel convened by the Public Policy Institute of California is recommending a new approach. “In California’s highly altered environment,” their report, Managing California’s Water: From Conflict to Reconciliation, explains, “reconciliation—which acknowledges the continued presence of human land and water uses—is likely to have more promise than restoration that seeks to return ecosystems to an approximation of their native states.” We applaud this pragmatic step forward.

New England

Exhibit Celebrates Connecticut’s Community Investment Act

CT-Williams-and-Reviczky.jpgIn late April, Sen. Don Williams highlighted six years of accomplishments through the Community Investment Act (CIA) at a press conference in Hartford. Describing the CIA as an "economic engine" that has helped to "sustain the character, and strengthen the economy, of nearly every town and city in Connecticut," Sen. Williams vowed to protect the CIA this year from the funding raids that occurred in previous years, when a portion of the fund was used to help balance the state budget. The press conference coincided with a display of 40 success stories—10 for each of the four CIA sectors: agriculture and dairy; historic preservation; open space; and affordable housing. 

Spreading the No Farms No Food® Message State by State in New England

NFNF_buttons_2.jpgThis spring, we have been joining farmers and other advocates to spread the No Farms No Food® message among lawmakers in southern New England. State “Ag Days” represent key opportunities to celebrate agriculture and highlight the importance of farmland preservation to lawmakers. In Massachusetts, we celebrated Gov. Deval Patrick’s announcement of appointments to the state’s new Food Policy Council. In Connecticut, we joined with other members of the Working Lands Alliance in stressing the need for additional bonding for the state’s Farmland Preservation Program. We are looking forward to May 12, when we will join members of the Rhode Island Agricultural Partnership, state officials and lawmakers at the Rhode Island Capitol to unveil a new five-year strategic plan for agriculture in that state. 

New York

Wine and Grocery Store Pairing Could Help Save Farmland, Promote New York Wine

statue-liberty-glass-wine.jpgIt’s been served up in the state legislature before only to be sent back, but the proposal to sell wine in grocery stores may have new legs now that advocates are proposing that 10 percent of the additional state revenue generated be directed toward farmland protection and the marketing of New York wines. A recent study commissioned by New Yorkers for Economic Growth and Open Markets found selling wine in grocery stores would generate hundreds of millions of dollars through franchise fees and sales tax, a portion of which could be put to work to save New York farms.

A Fresh Look at Farming in Erie County

erie-county-4.jpgErie County is about as far west as you can get and still be in New York. Home to Buffalo, the state’s second largest city, 22 percent of Erie County’s land is being farmed. Development pressure on farmland outside Buffalo remains intense while in the city, urban farms are springing up on abandoned lots. It’s time to take a fresh look at agriculture in Erie County. We are working with the county to update its 15-year-old agriculture and farmland protection plan. It is the first county in the state to update its plan using funding from New York’s Farmland Protection Program.

New Report Highlights Economic Potential of Local Food Production in Catskills
NY_Foodshed_web-3.jpgAccording to Ground Up: Cultivating Sustainable Agriculture in the Catskill Region, the region has the potential to produce significant amounts of locally grown food to feed people in New York City and beyond. The report, prepared by the Open Space Institute and the Urban Design Lab of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, found that demand for locally grown foods in the New York Metropolitan Region adds up to $866 million annually, while existing local food production amounts to $147 million in annual sales. Ramping up local food production could generate millions of dollars in economic activity for the Catskill Region.  

Pacific Northwest

County Farmland Protection Scorecard for the Puget Sound Basin

Silos-Washington.jpgWith the help of University of Washington students, we are analyzing the county farmland protection programs in the Puget Sound basin this summer. We’ll develop a scorecard based on each county's land use regulations, purchase and transfer of development rights programs, and economic development initiatives, and we plan to present awards to the best county programs this fall.

Greenhouse Gas Markets

cows.jpgWe are working with Climate Trust, an Oregon-based nonprofit, to identify Northwestern farmers interested in sponsoring biodigesters and nutrient reduction projects to generate greenhouse gas credits for sale in the California climate market. The initiation of the California cap-and-trade program in January 2012 is expected to fuel a lively market for greenhouse gas credits in the west. Our work is part of a larger project to build a registry of Northwest farmers interested in supplying credits to multiple conservation markets.

Upcoming Workshops on Conservation Markets

iStock_000007087270XSmall.jpgAlong with the Willamette Partnership, we will co-host a workshop for nonprofit leaders involved in conservation market development in the Northwest on June 15 and 16 in Union, Washington. The focus will be to develop a common strategy to overcome challenges and accelerate the development of conservation markets in the region.


Weather Is No Picnic for Farmers

Flooded-Field_Tractor.jpgRainy weather got you down? A spring that is wetter than normal can have an impact on our food beyond cancelling weekend picnic plans. In Pennsylvania, rain-soaked fields are delaying the planting process for corn this year which will ultimately impact the quality of milk reaching our tables. With farmers having a difficult time even getting on their fields, the wet weather also presents an obstacle for farmers interested in improving conservation practices through programs like our BMP Challenge.    

Main Stories

Opportunity for a Different Direction in the 2012 Farm Bill?

brochure-capitol.jpgWith the government’s debt level outlook shifting to negative, cuts to funding for farm and food programs may be inevitable. “Our country’s economic situation will be the most significant driver and agent of change in the 2012 Farm Bill,” explains our president, Jon Scholl. The next farm bill offers a chance to create an improved safety net for farmers that can better assure a sustainable agricultural system while safeguarding the environment.  

Planning for Landscape Integrity

NALS11-AGKawamuraPatrickO'T.jpgHow much land will we need to meet 21st century demands? Who will be the farmers and ranchers of tomorrow? These are just some of the concerns recently addressed at the National Agricultural Landscapes Forum. This post, the first in a series of reflections related to themes that emerged from the forum, points to the need for planning strategically, understanding the next generation, and seeking collaborative opportunities to ensure a sustainable future for our nation’s landscapes.

Farmland Protection: Past, Present and Future

Urban-Sprawl.jpgThe cultural, environmental and health benefits of our farm and ranch land are values that have been recognized for generations. Back in 1959, the National Association of Home Builders proclaimed, “We have learned the hard lesson that the land is a limited resource.” The Changing Landscape for Farmland Protection, a feature story in our recent issue of American Farmland Magazine, provides examples of people across the country finding innovative ways to successfully navigate an often challenging farmland protection terrain.     

Farmers Markets by the Numbers

blank-farmers-market.jpgIn 2010, the USDA reported more than 6,000 active farmers markets throughout the country – a 16 percent increase from the previous year! In Farmers Markets by the Numbers, we break down some of the facts on how farmers markets are helping consumers connect with farmers and ranchers and strengthen the local economy. We’ve also opened market manager registration for the 2011 America’s Favorite Farmers Markets Contest™, a nationwide contest that gives farmers market customers the chance to vote for their favorite markets and show support for their local food communities.

Around the Country

Nine schools in New Jersey were chosen to receive mini grants from the state’s Department of Agriculture and Rutgers Cooperative Extension for pilot programs that will help students eat fruits and vegetables, learn about good nutrition, and promote locally-grown produce.

The Massachusetts Departments of Agricultural Resources and Transitional Assistance are partnering to provide grants to farmers markets for the purchase of equipment necessary to process SNAP (Food Stamp) benefits.

PCC Farmland Trust, a Washington-based organization that acquires farmland for preservation, will host a tour called “Cultivating the Next Generation of Farmers,” which will begin on the Delta Farm of Nash Huber, one of our past Steward of the Land Award winners.

A gallery in Belfast, Maine, is showcasing a collection of photographs taken by Hugh Chatfield, a brain trauma recovery patient who took pictures of farmland along the coast of Maine in an effort to Support Maine Farmland Trust’s Farm Viability Program.

New York State Senator David Carlucci (D-Rockland/Orange) has proposed legislation that would give tax breaks to eateries that source their food from within a 100-mile radius.

The Ohio State University and the regional planning commission for surrounding Fairfield County are developing a study to better understand how a community can best manage its local food network.

For restaurants in Indiana, the demand for local food can help the regional economy while improving food quality. But restaurants are not alone—business and schools are also finding more ways to be a part of the local food network.

The Maine Farmland Trust recently embarked on a campaign to protect 100,000 acres of farmland in the state by 2014.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson partnered in April to tour select Iowa farms. The trip allowed both directors to speak with farmers who are championing the use of innovative conservation practices.

A ranch family in Potter, Nebraska, was honored with the prestigious 2011 Leopold Conservation Award for decades of strong conservation efforts on their cattle farm.

To better connect consumers and farmers, a group of organizations in California have developed the 32-page booklet, “Buy Fresh Buy Local: The Eaters Guide to Local Food.” Serving Butte, Tehama and Glenn counties, the booklet includes information on everything from farmers markets to caterers and CSAs.

The Oregon House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources approved the Oregon Farm to School Act—a bill that leverages state dollars to invest funds from the federal School Nutrition Programs into buying local produce and food products.

Leah Mayor, principal at Taking Root US, touts saving America’s farmland as the next step for local food movements, praising our Connecticut Working Lands Alliance as a leader in the charge.

You only have until May 9 to help us protect more than 30,000 acres of farmland by voting for Recycling & Sustainability in a $100,000 green giveaway by Garnier® and EarthShare!

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