August E-News: Calling on Congress to Pass the Farm Bill and Last Chance to Pledge for Your Farmers Market

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Welcome to the August issue of E-news. Click here to view a version of E-news on the web
 

Tell Congress: Pass the Farm Bill

Farmer Holding SonCongress has retreated for the month-long August recess without finishing major farm and food legislation, risking the loss of the billions of dollars the Farm Bill would invest in farmland protection and local economies. Join American Farmland Trust in sending more than 10,000 letters to members of Congress during the August recess, supporting a finished Farm Bill. "Programs to protect farmland, improve water quality and provide wildlife habitat all come from the Farm Bill, the single largest federal investment in private lands conservation," says Jeremy Peters, American Farmland Trust's Director of Federal Policy. "It creates opportunities for farmers markets, local foods and beginning farmers—all of which are priorities for fresh, healthy foods and robust local farm economies."

American Farmland Trust needs another 2,000 letters to reach its goal and needs your help. Be one of the 10,000 voices demanding that Congress finishes the Farm Bill!

Fall Tax Reform Could Be Key for Farmland Protection

Red barns and livestock on California ranchIn fall 2013, Congress is expected to take up major tax code reform—potentially including the Enhanced Conservation Easement Tax and the estate tax—that may benefit farmers seeking to protect their farmland. Legislation has already been introduced to extend a vital tax benefit in the Enhanced Conservation Easement Tax Deduction, a provision that has accelerated farmland conservation, before it expires in December. American Farmland Trust has long advocated for fair treatment for agricultural and forest lands under the estate tax for lands that are to remain in agriculture and forestry, to relieve the burden on families who want to keep their land in farming but might otherwise be forced to sell their land.

As activity picks up on tax reform look for ways you can help American Farmland Trust promote common sense tax policy to benefit our farms, ranches and forestlands.

I Love My Farmers Market Button

Last Chance to Pledge Support for Your Favorite Farmers Market

Time is running out to support your local farmers market in the American Farmland Trust's I Love My Farmers Market Celebration. The national celebration, which closes on September 9, encourages shoppers to pledge to spend an extra $10 at their local farmers market. For every $10 spent on local food, as much as $7.80 is re-spent in the local community, supporting local jobs and businesses. Or as Diane, a pledger from Palo Alto, California, explains, "We LOVE knowing the people who grow and harvest what we eat. Shopping at the farmers' market every Saturday morning connects us to our food and to our community in a way that no other activity can. It is an essential part of lives." Pledge to spend an extra $10 at your farmers market today before September 9 and help support your local community!

OUR WORK AROUND THE COUNTRY

Conference Charts New Course for Farmland Conservation in California

Napa-Valley,-California-vineyard.pngOn August 3, American Farmland Trust and the Napa County Farm Bureau co-sponsored a conference that brought together more than 200 state and local leaders to chart a new course for farmland conservation in California. The conference showcased outstanding local and regional farmland conservation programs throughout the state and explored ways in which state policies could be better administered or changed to promote farmland conservation.

“What we learned,” said American Farmland Trust’s California Director, Edward Thompson, Jr., “is that some local communities have successfully demonstrated how to reduce the development of farmland and permanently protect it. We know how to do it. But in many places the political will is lacking, and state policies are ‘muddied’ at best when it comes to helping more communities succeed.”

From the knowledge gathered at the conference, American Farmland Trust will mount a campaign in California to promote changes in state policy and also encourage more local communities to adopt farmland conservation programs.

Indiana Steps Up to Pilot Test a Regional Water Quality Trading Market

riparian buffers on Illinois farmAmerican Farmland Trust is hard at work in five southeastern Indiana counties—Dearborn, Ohio, Ripley, Switzerland and Wayne—helping the Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) work with farmers to pilot test the nation’s first regional water quality trading market in the Ohio River Basin. The project is led by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and American Farmland Trust is a collaborating partner. Here’s how it works: EPRI is providing funds that flow through the state agencies in Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky to the participating SWCDs. The SWCDs then provide funds to help farmers install best management practices to reduce nutrient run-off into water and generate credits that EPRI will sell later this year to test the market.  Mike Baise, American Farmland Trust’s Midwest Director, is not surprised that the Indiana SWCDs are on the cutting edge. “Indiana is a leader in implementing practices that conserve soil and protect water quality because of the leadership of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, our State Conservationist, Jane Hardisty, and our SWCDs,” he explains. “Their participation in this project is just one more example of helping producers balance production with environmental stewardship.”  
 

American Farmland Trust Leads Indiana’s First Learning Circles for Women Farmland Owners

Female farmer with pitchfork and hayAs part of on-going work to educate and empower women landowners in the Midwest, American Farmland Trust and our local partners convened a pair of three-hour informal discussions—or “learning circles”—for women farmland owners. The participants in the women-only discussion owned from 6 acres to more than 2,000 acres and were a mix of owner-operators and non-operating landowners. They discussed topics ranging from soil erosion to cover crops to conservation easements; professionals were also on-hand to answer their questions. Local partners for the learning circles were Indiana Farm Bureau, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Central Indiana Land Trust and the county farm bureaus and Soil and Water Conservation Districts of Howard and Hendricks counties. American Farmland Trust hopes to follow up with the participants and hold future session on topics such as conservation for row crops, use of cover crops, tax benefits, leasing experiences, marketing alternatives and specialty crops, keeping creeks from eroding, and pollinators.

Illinois Soil and Water Conservation Districts Hold Cover Crops Meeting

Reynolds, Illinois Cover Crop Meeting August 1, 2013.pngMore than 120 farmers and landowners packed into a cover crop informational meeting held by the Rock Island and Mercer counties’ Soil and Water Conservation Districts on August 1 in Reynolds, Illinois. The meeting is one among many cover crop educational events in several targeted Illinois counties sponsored by American Farmland Trust. The events seek to inform farmers and landowners about the benefits of growing cover crops, including improved soil health. The Reynolds meeting featured Dr. Joel Gruver of Western Illinois University and two experienced farmers, Cade Bushnell of Northern, Illinois, and Steve Berger of Wellman, Iowa. American Farmland Trust was represented by Midwest Director Mike Baise, and Dan Towery, a well-known cover crop consultant and former Illinois Natural Resources Conservation Service state agronomist. Read about cover crops on our website and stayed tuned for more opportunities in Illinois to learn about cover crops. 

American Farmland Trust at the Partners in Conservation Tent in Decatur, Illinois

2013 Farm Progress Show logoMidwest Director for American Farmland Trust, Mike Baise, will be at the Partners in Conservation Tent at the 2013 Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Illinois, August 27 to 29. Come visit the Partners in Conservation tent, learn about soil health and the latest conservation issues facing farmers and talk Mike out of a No Farms No Food® bumper sticker for your favorite vehicle. Joining American Farmland Trust will be the Practical Farmers of Iowa, the Buffett Foundation’s massive cover crop roller, the Illinois Stewardship Alliance and many other dedicated conservation organizations. We hope to see you there!

New England Webinar and Listening Sessions on Food Safety Modernization Act

Farmers market spreadThe new federal Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) will significantly impact how food in New England and around the country is grown, handled and processed. Farmers, consumers and organizations that support farms and farmland conservation all have a stake in how FSMA is implemented. You can help make it a workable law that improves food safety and supports the type and scale of agriculture that is prevalent in New England.As part of American Farmland Trust’s Regional Policy Project, we recently collaborated with partners to host a webinar about the FSMA, in advance of three listening sessions that will take place in New England on August 19, 20 and 22. “Thanks to our region’s excellent Congressional delegation, we have a chance at these listening sessions to weigh in with our thoughts and concerns,” said American Farmland Trust's New England Director, Cris Coffin. “Let’s make the most of this opportunity.”

Connecticut Governor Signs Bill Protecting State-Owned Farmland

Governor Malloy signs farmland protection billAlong the edges of the Southbury Training School’s rolling farmland, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy signed a bill on July 16 that would permanently protect the school’s 825 acres of state-owned farmland. The legislation conveys a conservation easement to the Southbury Land Trust and transfers custody of the land to the state Department of Agriculture. The State of Connecticut will continue to own the farmland and is considering using a portion of it for an incubator program for new and beginning farmers. “We applaud Governor Malloy and the Legislature for their foresight in protecting this farmland in perpetuity,” said Lisa Bassani, Project Director for Working Lands Alliance, a broad-based state coalition and project of American Farmland Trust. This bill was one of Working Lands Alliance’s top legislative priorities this year.

National Farm Viability Conference: September 25 to 27 in Vermont

Woman picking tomatoes in a greenhouseA national gathering of farm viability professionals hosted by the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board will take place in Middlebury, Vermont on September 25 to 27. The conference is geared towards professionals in the fields of farm and food business planning, financial planning, agricultural financing, farmland conservation, agricultural market development, and food hub management. The conference is an opportunity to network and learn from other professionals, develop new knowledge and skills, and visit farms and value-added processing facilities. American Farmland Trust advised the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board on the creation of its state farm viability program, and considers the program important to keeping farmland in farming. Says Cris Coffin, American Farmland Trust's New England Director, “Strategic state investments in farm businesses made through state farm viability programs are fueling farm business expansion and new market opportunities for the next generation of farmers. This is enormously important to keeping farmers on the land.” For more information, visit www.farmviabilityconference.com.

American Farmland Trust Hosts Workshop for Connecticut Landowners on “Planning Your Land’s Future”

Kip Kolesinskas runs farmland planning meetingOn July 30, American Farmland Trust’s Kip Kolesinskas joined with University of Vermont Extension specialist Dr. Bob Parsons and Norm Bender from University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension System at a workshop to help farm families, farmers and non-farming landowners plan for their land’s future. The workshop, held in Haddam, Connecticut, covered estate planning and land transfer, risk management tools, land protection options and the basics of land rental and lease options. Kolesinskas, Consulting Conservation Scientist to American Farmland Trust, was pleased that participating landowners were interested in exploring more conservation options for their land and ways to keep it in production in the future. Look for opportunities to participate in additional workshops on the topic of land transfers next year. 

Online Registration Now Open for Harvesting Opportunities Conference

2013 Harvesting Opportunities conferenceOnline registration is now open for the Harvesting Opportunities in New York: Growing Local Food Economies and Protecting Farmland  conference to be held November 20 in downtown Albany!  “This is a great opportunity to talk about strengthening connections between farmers and local consumers and protecting the land that is critical to farming,” says David Haight, New York State Director for American Farmland Trust.

Join farmers, elected officials, conservation and public health leaders, and concerned citizens for workshops that will address topics such as Real World Success in Connecting Local Food and Public Health; Emerging Models of Farmland Affordability; Preparing Farmers for Expanding Local Markets; Planning for Local Agriculture and Food Systems; Engaging the Public in Saving Farmland; Strategies for Beginning Farmers to Access Farmland; and Funding for Protecting Farmland. 

Culinary Institute of America Senior Dinner Benefits American Farmland Trust

Harvest on the HudsonAmerican Farmland Trust was chosen by the Culinary Institute of America’s senior class to be the beneficiary of its recent gala event, Harvest on the Hudson. Each senior class at the Culinary Institute of America, based in Hyde Park, New York, hosts a dinner to benefit a charity of interest. 

“Students at the Culinary Institute of America love their farmers,” said Michael Ramella, Culinary Institute senior and event general manager. “Our program stresses the entire process of producing fine cuisine, from farm to fork. Choosing American Farmland Trust was a no-brainer. With the rapid depletion of farmland nationwide, we collectively agreed that all of our fundraising would be best utilized through the American Farmland Trust. Every penny we raise will help support the hardworking farmers of our beautiful Hudson Valley.” 

Long Island Farmers Protect Water Quality

Jennifer Halsey and daughter Kay in peach orchardA pioneering group of 35 farmers on Long Island are conducting on-farm conservation projects this summer to reduce their use of nitrogen fertilizers on sweet corn and potato crops. The projects are part of a program being offered by American Farmland Trust, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County's Agricultural Stewardship Program, and AgfFlex. “Everybody has to do their part as far as nitrogen is concerned,” said Jennifer Halsey, a fruit and pumpkin farmer on Long Island’s South Fork. “Anything you put in the soil is going to end up in the water if there is too much of it.” The importance of this work was highlighted in a recent American Farmland Trust Op-Ed in Newsday titled Farmers Eye Clean Water and Land Prices.

After Legislative Victory, Washington’s Farmland Forever Campaign Turns to County Planning

Barn on rolling acres of Washington farmlandAfter great news in June that Washington state funding this legislative session met American Farmland Trust's Farmland Forever campaign goals—$5.3 million for farmland easements, enough to protect more than 6,000 acres—the team has settled into a slightly less fevered pace over the summer. American Farmland Trust’s Pacific Northwest staff is working particularly on helping county governments in the Puget Sound region improve their planning and zoning for agriculture, aiming for major upgrades in a round of county comprehensive plan updates that will take place in 2014 and 2015. "While this work is not as exciting as a big state payout for farm easements," said Dennis Canty, Pacific Northwest Director for American Farmland Trust, "it can help us save hundreds of farms and tens of thousands of farm acres in the region." The work taps the full capacity of American Farmland Trust, including the expertise of the Farmland Information Center staff on farmland protection techniques and the creative spark of the Communications staff.

Pioneers in Conservation Program Receives Boost to Work with More Washington Farmers

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American Farmland Trust’s Pioneers in Conservation initiative, a grants program supporting farmers using conservation practices in key environmental areas, has recently been awarded matching funds from the Washington Department of Ecology's Centennial Program for work in the Wenatchee River. Projects selected for funding through the Centennial Program reflect the highest priority water quality projects across the state. American Farmland Trust partnered with the Chelan County Natural Resources Department to apply for funding, ranking eighth out of nearly 70 projects. "Such a high ranking shows the value of our participation in the project and the recognition of the important role that farmland can play in improving water quality and riparian habitat," said Christy Carr, American Farmland Trust’s Pioneers in Conservation Program Manager. The $216,050 in state funds, coupled with American Farmland Trust's $35,000 in grant funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Federation, will be used to address various water quality impairments in the Wenatchee River and its tributaries through habitat restoration and riparian planting projects. American Farmland Trust is assisting Chelan County with site selection and landowner outreach and education efforts. 

Register for an On-Farm Riparian Forest Tree Planting on September 28

tree plantingThe Snoqualmie Food, Farms and Forests Day is a community stewardship event to engage local residents in restoration efforts on local farmland. During the day, American Farmland Trust will be leading community volunteers to plant riparian forests on one of a handful of Snoqualmie Valley farms followed by a lunch of locally grown food at beautiful Camp Korey. The Snoqualmie Food, Farms and Forests Day is a chance to head out to a working farm for a unique look at environmental restoration efforts on local farms and provides participants an opportunity to connect with local food and farmers. The September 28 volunteer opportunity begins at 10 am with lunch running from 1 to 3 pm. Register today

Wisconsin Hits Farmland Conservation Milestone, But Much Work Remains

Cows grazing on Wisconsin farmWith the recent addition of 236,800 acres of farmland to the state’s Ag Enterprise Area (AEA) program, Wisconsin is nearly three-quarters of the way to its goal of one million acres designated in enterprise areas. AEAs are part of the statewide farmland protection program and are intended to both encourage land conservation and to promote agricultural economic development. Despite this milestone, it is a small piece of the puzzle when it comes to preserving Wisconsin’s farmland. Bill Berry, Wisconsin Field Representative for American Farmland Trust, recently explained the rocky road of farmland protection programs and offered ways to further enhance these efforts. To protect Wisconsin farmland, concludes Berry, “We need to keep our eyes on the long-term goals that are so crucial to agriculture, conservation and the well-being of Wisconsin farm families and the state as a whole.”

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