June E-News: Big Victories for Farmland Protection and America's Favorite Farmers Markets Contest Kicks Off

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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? Check out our Farmland Report blog. 

Senate Comes Together to Pass Farm Bill

Water way running through farm fieldsOn June 21, the U.S. Senate came together to support the 2012 Farm Bill with a bipartisan vote of 64 to 35. Even with some reduced funding, the bill has important features that include comprehensive and efficient tools to help protect America’s greatest resource – our farm and ranch land. This Senate-passed bill is a big victory for conservation, but our work to secure a farm and conservation-friendly Farm Bill for 2012 is not yet done. Now we have turned our efforts to concentrate on the House of Representatives to assure that the gains secured by the Senate are carried through by the House and into a final, conferenced bill for the President to sign into law. “Completing the farm bill this year is essential to continue the gains we’ve made to protect America’s working farmlands,” said Jon Scholl, president of American Farmland Trust. “We urge the House to follow the Senate in passing this critical legislation.” 

A Kick Off to Summer with the America’s Favorite Farmers Markets™ Contest

Man holding fruit at farmers marketFor many Americans, the start of summer means visiting a nearby farmers markets and supporting the farmers who are assets to our communities. You can help your favorite farmers market gain the recognition it deserves by voting for your favorite farmers markets in the America’s Favorite Farmers Markets™ contest. The contest will be underway until midnight September 3, so cast your vote and then spread the word to friends and family. “In addition to the freshest local foods, farmers markets offer a great way for consumers to get to know the farmers who grow their food,” explained Jon Scholl, American Farmland Trust President.

In concert with the contest, the Farmers Market Coalition (FMC) is conducting the Farmers Market Inspiration Award, designed to reward and showcase the variety of ways farmers markets benefit communities across the United States. Essays from farmers will be accepted through August 11 so be sure to ask your favorite farmer to tell their inspiring story soon!  Essay eligibility and other information is available at www.farmersmarketcoalition.org

Big Victories for Farmland Protection

Sprawling development on farmlandThanks to the impassioned and effective efforts of farmers, conservationists and other advocates, Ohio and Wisconsin have recently moved to support funding for farmland protection efforts despite fiscal belt tightening in both states. In Ohio, Governor Kasich approved a $42 million allocation for the Clean Ohio Fund, allowing communities to protect farmland that they might not have been able to otherwise. Through unanimous support, members of Wisconsin’s department of agriculture recently recommended the state’s legislators approve continued support of the Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easement program, critical support that was almost eliminated by Governor Scott Walker in 2011. Read more about the Wisconsin victory

The backing of farmland protection funding in Ohio and Wisconsin are stunning examples of what farmers, conservationists and other supporters of farmland can achieve together. These programs not only protect land for farming now and in the future, they also support farmland succession and rural economic development.


Illinois Passes Legislation to Help Farmers and Water Quality

Corn field and blue skyIllinois farmers, environmental advocates and agricultural industry partners have cause to celebrate new legislation to help farmers deliver significant improvements in water quality. The bill is part of the Keep it for the Crop (KIC 2025) initiative, which is supported by a coalition of agricultural and environmental organizations working to improve nutrient management. “When enacted this legislation will go a long way to educate farmers and the public about the best management practices of nutrient management. A portion of the fees will also support the fertilizer program at the Illinois Department of Agricultur," explained Mike Baise, Midwest Director for American Farmland Trust, . Congratulations to our Illinois partners for getting this landmark legislation passed.”

Rhode Island Land Bond Set for November Ballot  

Hands planting a seedlingRhode Island voters will have the chance to help protect the state’s farmland when they head to the polls in November. Earlier this month, Rhode Island lawmakers agreed to place an “Environmental Management” bond referendum on the November ballot. The referendum includes $20 million for a variety of different programs administered by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, including $4.5 million for the state’s Farmland Protection Program. Cris Coffin, New England Director for American Farmland Trust, is pleased with the strong show of support for farmland protection by Governor Lincoln Chafee and the legislature, which addresses one of the key goals identified by farmers in a recent statewide strategic planning process. “The Vision for Rhode Island Agriculture calls for stopping the loss of productive farmland. This state investment in permanent farmland protection will keep farmland in farming, encourage reinvestment in agriculture, and help a new generation of farmers get started.”   

Massachusetts Releases 2011 Land Protection Report

Massachusetts farm in springInvesting in the state’s working farms and forests was a high priority of Governor Deval Patrick’s administration in 2011, according to a report just released by the Commonwealth’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.  With $10.7 million, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources permanently conserved 1,059 acres of productive farmland through the Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) Program, much of it in the Connecticut River Valley. The Farm Viability Enhancement Program helped 19 farms develop business plans, and placed another 1,949 acres of farm and forest land under agricultural covenant. Cris Coffin, New England Director for American Farmland Trust, is concerned that these numbers will be less robust going forward if the Patrick Administration sticks to plans to reduce funding for the APR and Farm Viability programs in 2013.  “As the report makes clear, these programs are helping to grow jobs and revenues in communities across Massachusetts,” explains Coffin. “We urge the Patrick Administration—as 29 state legislators did this spring—to maintain its current commitment to these programs.”      

Connecticut’s Governor Malloy Shares Ice Cream Breakfast with the Working Lands Alliance

Three holstein cows in a barnDuring the Revolutionary War, Connecticut was deemed the “Provision State” because even as the third smallest state, Connecticut supplied more food for Washington’s army than any other. In alignment with Governor Malloy’s announcement of the state’s new Still Revolutionary! tourism campaign, the Working Lands Alliance (WLA) held our annual Ice Cream Breakfast, a reminder that Connecticut Agriculture is also Still Revolutionary!  WLA’s Ice Cream Breakfast welcomed words from Governor Malloy and Commissioner of Agriculture Steven Reviczky. Also in attendance were Lieutenant Governor Wyman, Commissioner Catherine Smith of the Department of Economic and Community Development, University of Connecticut College of Agriculture Dean, Gregory Weidemann, and Dr. Louis Magnarelli of the Agricultural Experiment Station.  Refreshments were provided by the Farmers Cow, Tulmeadow Farms, Arethusa Dairy, and University of Connecticut Dairy. “We were so grateful to have the support of all who attended the event and contributed to its success,” said Leah Mayor, Working Lands Alliance Project Director and New England Project Manager at American Farmland Trust.  

Legislature Supports Increased Funding for Environmental Protection Fund

New York City Greenmarket Farmers MarketLast week the New York State legislature passed a bill enhancing the Environmental Protection Fund with a portion of revenue from unclaimed bottle deposits. “We applaud the legislature’s support for increased funding for the Environmental Protection Fund,” said David Haight, New York State Director for American Farmland Trust. “These funds support working farms, forests, outdoor tourism and other industries that generate $40 billion of economic activity statewide annually.” The bill requires a signature from Governor Cuomo to become law. The Environmental Protection Fund provides funding for farmland preservation, state parks, recycling and other initiatives.

Three Farms Permanently Protected

Grapes in a basketTwo Finger Lakes Region farms and a third, in the Cherry Valley are now protected thanks to funds from the state’s Farmland Protection Program. Hicks Family Farm and Wyffels Farm, both in Canandaigua, were provided matching funds through the town’s conservation program. The 135-acre Wyffels Farm grazes beef cattle and the 82-acre Hicks Farm includes pasture, hayfields and vineyards. The 334-acre Ringwood Farms, located in Ostego County, produces maple syrup. “When the state funds farmland protection projects such as these, it is investing in the future of the business of agriculture,” said David Haight, New York State Director for American Farmland Trust. 

Brunswick Screening Spotlights Suburban Sprawl

Brunswick filmmaker and cameraThe film Brunswick documents a community’s attempts to balance an influx of residential development with its desire to keep farmland in agriculture. The film weaves the plight of an aging farmer and small town political dynamics as a housing development is planned on an agricultural land formerly owned by the farmer. “This compelling story is being played out across the country as rural towns struggle to retain their farmland in the face of suburban sprawl,” said Laura Ten Eyck, New York Field Representative for American Farmland Trust. Brunswick was screened in Albany, New York and Ten Eyck served as part of a panel discussion held after the film. 

New Support for Farmland Forever

Washington Women's Foundation check presentationFarmland Forever, American Farmland Trust’s campaign to save thousands of acres of farmland in Washington’s Puget Sound region, got a huge boost from two supporters recently. First, the Washington Women's Foundation selected the project from 270 submissions for a $90,000 grant. The very next day, the Marisla Foundation provided $15,000 more. "We couldn't be more excited about this support," said Dennis Canty, Pacific Northwest Director for American Farmland Trust. "These new partnerships will allow us to move forward quickly to protect thousands of acres of Puget Sound farmland." The funding will be used for outreach to farmland advocates in the regiondubbed the Farmland 500—to organize a campaign coalition of farm, environmental and local food groups, and to prepare funding proposals for state and federal sources.  If you'd like to sign up for Farmland 500 mailings, please contact Dennis at dcanty@farmland.org.

Charting Success in the Snoqualmie Valley

Rows of crops in the Pacific NorthwestThe Pioneers in Conservation program, a grants program supporting farmers using conservation practices in key environmental areas, has recently been awarded matching funds from USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service for work in the Snoqualmie Valley. Funding will be used to supplement small grants to farmers to restore streamside vegetation and repair fish passage barriers. We expect that the Pioneers in Conservation program will result in the restoration of a continuous riparian corridor along more than four miles of critical salmon streams. We will be offering the Pioneers program in two other Washington watersheds this year and are currently investigating the Okanogan, Wenatchee, Hood Canal, and Walla Walla basins as candidates.

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