October E-News: Farm Bill Expires and Sharing Stories about Americas Favorite Farmers Markets

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Welcome to the October 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. 

North Carolina farm and fieldAs Farm Bill Expires, What’s Next for Conservation?

Congress’s failure to pass the 2012 Farm Bill on schedule has frustrated many on both sides of the aisle.  Election year politics have kept a good bill with broad bipartisan support trapped in limbo in the House. With the expiration of the last Farm Bill that has come to pass, what’s in store for the conservation programs that help farmers and ranchers remain good stewards of the land?

Stories Reflect Heart of America’s Favorite Farmers Markets

Vegetables at Winter Garden Farmers MarketFarmers markets are one way for farmers to operate with more autonomy when it comes to pricing and sales, while, at the same time, they enable farmers to attract new customers and build relationships. American Farmland Trust President Jon Scholl points out, “Farmers may start off selling to market-goers but end up also selling to local restaurants or to a local institution, such as a hospital or a school.” Yet economic opportunity is not the only by-product of farmers markets. As highlighted in the stories of the 2012 America’s Favorite Farmers Markets™, today — more than ever before —farmers markets are critical parts of their communities. Read more about this year’s contest winners:


Stanislaus County, California Makes Critical Step to Actively Protect Farmland

Rows of crops in CaliforniaThe Stanislaus County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) recently voted 4-1 to adopt a policy that may help reduce farmland loss along the urban edge. The policy requires cities to prepare farmland conservation plans before they annex more land or expand their spheres of influence. This is believed to be the first such LAFCO policy in the San Joaquin Valley. Existing spheres of influence– areas around cities officially designated for growth – encompass 32,000 acres (50 square miles) of land in Stanislaus County, much of it highly productive farmland. The LAFCO policy has provoked wider debate over farmland conservation in Stanislaus County, which produced $3 billion worth of food and other agricultural products last year. Find out more about the groundbreaking LAFCO policy.

Unveiling Crucial Findings for the Future of Farms at the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Forum

Farm on the water in the fallHow is farmland stacking up to development in efforts to clean the Chesapeake Bay? Mid-Atlantic Director Jim Baird has been working with partners in the region to help answer this question and recently presented their findings at the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Forum. With widespread perceptions of farms as the primary water quality problem in the Bay area, many think that smart-design housing might actually be a preferable land use. “Not necessarily,” says Baird. “We have found that, thanks to growth in conservation practices spurred by the Bay Restoration Plan, farmland actually puts about 15 percent less nitrogen into the Bay watershed per acre than developed land.” Move ahead to a 2025 scenario. Should all of the conservation measures on farms and developed lands be implemented, farmland is projected to release 28 percent less nitrogen than developed land. Adds Baird, “These findings are important both to restore Chesapeake Bay health and to maintain the farms that provide our food and support our local economy.”  

Fate of Farmland Protection Funding Rests with Rhode Island Voters

Rhode Island state capitolVoters in Rhode Island have a chance to support farmland protection when they head to the polls on November 6. Question 6 is a referendum for $20 million in Environmental Management bonds, including $4.5 million to protect farmland. This funding will help the state leverage an equal amount of federal funding through Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program funding, as well as municipal and private funds. With only one-fourth of the state's farmland permanently protected, the funding addresses one of the key goals identified by farmers in the five-year Vision for Rhode Island Agriculture– stopping the loss of productive farmland. Says American Farmland Trust New England Director Cris Coffin, “Our studies show that investments in farmland protection are typically plowed back in to the local economy by farm families who use the proceeds of the sale of development rights to expand their farms, grow their businesses and add jobs.  A YES on Question 6 is good for the environment and the economy.”  

The 2012 Farmland Preservation Pathfinder Award Nominations Now Open

Four generations of farmers on Jones Family FarmsThe Working Lands Alliance, a project of American Farmland Trust, is pleased to announce open nominations for the 2012 Farmland Preservation Pathfinder Awards. Established in 2003, these prestigious awards are designed to recognize individuals and groups that have significantly advanced farmland preservation through leadership, advocacy, planning and education. For the last nine years, winners of the award have been chosen because they are champions for farmland protection. Award winners have represented individuals who have logged countless hours in the name of preserving Connecticut’s most valuable and vulnerable resource—its farmland. 

Farmland Advisors Training Program Now Accepting Applications in Northeast

Allen Family on farm in Easton, New YorkThe transfer of farms to a new generation is one of the biggest challenges facing agriculture in the New York and New England.  Farmland Advisors is a training program to help agriculture and conservation professionals become an effective resource in helping farmers and farmland owners as they seek access to land and navigate the complexity of farm transfers. “Participants will learn about everything from farm succession planning to farm linking, lease options and land conservation as a farm transfer strategy,” said Diane Held, Senior New York Field Manager for American Farmland Trust. “Land access and availability are increasingly impacting farms and food systems in the region,” added New England Director Cris Coffin, “Working with professionals across the Northeast will help to meet these challenges at the state level.”  Applications are now being accepted. The deadline to apply is October 31.

Harvesting Opportunities in New York Conference Panelists Announced


People working across New York state to grow local food economies and protect farmland from development will converge in Albany on November 15 for the Harvesting Opportunities conference. Panels including farmers, town supervisors, institutional food buyers, policy analysts and filmmakers will lead workshops on buying locally grown food, protecting farmland from development in local communities and spreading the word about the importance of local farms and food. “This conference will motivate New Yorkers to work together to grow our local food economies and save our irreplaceable farmland,” said American Farmland Trust’s New York State Director David Haight.

Scaling Up Institutional Purchasing of New York Grown Food

Kids at school cafeteria salad barSelling local food to institutions is a “win-win” for farmers and consumers in New York. Yet buying local is challenging for institutions. Scaling Up: Strategies for Expanding Sales of Local Food to Public and Private Institutions in New York, released by American Farmland Trust’s Farm to Institution New York State Working Group, identifies barriers to institutional purchasing of local food and recommends actions to get more local food served in institutions. “This needs assessment encourages a coordinated approach to increasing farm to institution sales in New York state,” said David Haight, New York State Director.

Compensating for Farmland Losses in Whatcom County, Washington

Washington State farmland and farmerAmerican Farmland Trust is working with the Whatcom County government to develop a strategy for offsetting farmland losses associated with land use development, habitat restoration, and other non-farm land uses. The work is motivated by a county council policy seeking to permanently preserve 100,000 acres of farmland for productive agricultural use. "While this goal is simple, it is also transformative," says Dennis Canty, Northwest Director for American Farmland Trust. "Suddenly, every acre of farmland matters."  The policy will borrow from successful programs in California and Vermont that require that farmland acres lost to development are compensated for through zoning, development right purchases and other protective measures on additional land.

Farmland Forever is Up and Running

Washington State farm with snowy mountainOn October 4, American Farmland Trust convened a blue ribbon group of Washington state agricultural and environmental leaders to discuss first steps on the Farmland Forever campaign.  There is tremendous enthusiasm for the campaign goals of protecting an additional 100,000 acres of farmland through a combination of purchase of development rights and protective ag zoning.  The next step is to rally support for additional state funding for the purchase of development rights in the upcoming Washington legislative session. Look for opportunities to join the Farmland Forever campaign and take action—coming soon!

Future of Farming Conference

Farmer holding vegetablesAmerican Farmland Trust is in the early stages of planning for a spring 2013 conference on actions that Northwestern communities can take to preserve farming into the next century. Explained Pacific Northwest Director Dennis Canty, “We hope to bring experts in land use planning, economic development, marketing, and other disciplines from around the country into the Seattle area to discuss what we can do in this region to ensure a successful future for agriculture.”  American Farmland Trust is currently recruiting students from the University of Washington to help with organizing the conference.

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