February E-News: Agricultural Act of 2014 Signed Into Law




American Farmland Trust
Farm in Snow

Welcome to the February issue of E-news. 

Agricultural Act of 2014 Signed Into Law

Obama-Signs-AgAct14.jpgFollowing Congressional passage of the Agricultural Act of 2014, President Obama officially signed the law on February 7 in a signing ceremony at Michigan State University along with Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and other leaders.

The President highlighted how diverse Farm Bill programs offer assistance to every American from nutrition to farms and commodities to conservation. “It’s like a Swiss Army knife,” said the President. “It’s like Mike Trout -- for those of you who know baseball. It’s somebody who’s got a lot of tools.  It multitasks.  It’s creating more good jobs, gives more Americans a shot at opportunity.” 

American Farmland Trust has a special 2014 Farm Bill page with highlights of specific program reforms we have achieved during the Farm Bill process.

Save the Date! American Farmland Trust's National Conference on Farmland, Food and Livable Communities  Lexington, Kentucky, October 20–22

2014NationaConference.Edit.jpgAmerican Farmland Trust President Andrew McElwaine joined Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer at a February 4 press conference to announce American Farmland Trust’s national Farmland, Food and Livable Communities conference. Leaders and experts from around the country will gather to focus on the overlapping interests of farmland protection, women and next generation farmers, food systems and creating resilient communities that address food and agriculture.

“This is the first time a national conference will bring together these diverse interests to comprehensively address 21st-century challenges,” said McElwaine. Keynote speakers and local and national leaders will showcase innovative approaches, successful strategies and replicable models. Participants will not only learn from best-in-class practices, planning, policy and investment but also craft next steps to advance work in these areas.

Save the date! Join American Farmland Trust in Lexington, Kentucky, October 20–22, 2014. Sign up now to receive more information about American Farmland Trust’s Farmland, Food and Livable Communities conference.

American Farmland Trust Supports International Year of Family Farming

Veg.IYFF.jpgAmerican Farmland Trust is recognizing the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) designated International Year of Family Farming (IYFF) and serving on the IYFF U.S. Executive Committee, which is being chaired by National Farmers Union.

To recognize the importance of natural resources, February’s focus is on conservation.  American Farmland Trust’s Director of Federal Policy Jeremy Peters recently wrote a blog post highlighting the need for national and international attention on conservation and climate change.  “With a world population expected to exceed 9 billion individuals by 2050, family farmers all over the world are being challenged to produce more from the land than ever before,” said Peters.

The IYFF aims to raise the profile of family farming and smallholder farming by focusing world attention on its significant role in eradicating hunger and poverty, providing food security and nutrition, improving livelihoods, managing natural resources, protecting the environment, and achieving sustainable development, in particular in rural areas.

American Farmland Trust Survey Shows a 19 Percent Increase in Farmland Protection Funding

Cow-in-field.jpgAmerican Farmland Trust’s annual survey of state farm and ranch land protection programs shows a 19 percent increase in funding from 2011 to 2012, but funding levels are still 39 percent below where they were in 2008. “The increase in funding shows that a number of states have put a priority on protecting farmland, while state spending on environmental protection programs generally continues in a downward trend,” said Andrew McElwaine, president and CEO of American Farmland Trust. 

Overall since 1979, state farm and ranch land protection programs have protected 2,373,470 acres of agricultural land by acquiring 13,450 easements and spending a total of more than $3.6 billion.

Colorado, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey and Vermont lead the 27 states with active farmland protection programs in the number of acres protected. New Jersey leads other states in the amount of money spent for farmland protection–$957.1 millionfollowed by Pennsylvania with $853 million, Maryland with $672.3 million, Massachusetts with $214.2 million and Colorado with $170.5 million.

American Farmland Trust Offering Free Farm Bill Webinars

US CapitolThe Agricultural Act of 2014 is now law, so what exactly does that mean for farmland conservation? Register today for free webinars that will explore changes made to conservation programs. American Farmland Trust is offering the free webinars in partnership with the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) and other conservation partners.

The full schedule as currently planned includes:

  • Wednesday, February 19, 4PM EST - Farm Bill Overview (recorded webinar available Feb. 24, 2014) 

  • Wednesday, February 26, 4PM EST - Agricultural Conservation Easement Program

  • Wednesday, March 5, 4PM EST - Regional Conservation Partnership Program

  • Wednesday, March 12, 4PM EST - Conservation Compliance (with Izaak Walton League of America)

Webinars may be added to the series as needed to cover additional topics. Visit American Farmland Trust’s website to register today!


Wood Colony Inclusion in Modesto General Plan Angers Historic Agricultural Community

Wood-Colony-edit.jpgIn California’s San Joaquin Valley, a fight is brewing over the proposed inclusion of Wood Colony in the city of Modesto’s General Plan. Locals in the 1,800 acre community—one of the oldest farming communities in the state—say the inclusion of Wood Colony in the city’s plan will result in the loss of some of Stanislaus County's best farmland to the development of business parks and other real estate projects. While massive protests led the Modesto City Council to recently decrease the amount of land planned for development, many Wood Colony residents plan to continue the fight. American Farmland Trust’s Valley Program Manager Daniel O’Connell acknowledged their frustration, “The community does not want to be annexed yet finds itself being forced into the city, and by extension, confronting the future destruction of the colony’s agricultural heritage and productivity.” Follow American Farmland Trust’s San Joaquin Valley Groundswell Facebook page for updates on Wood Colony.

American Farmland Trust’s California Director Encourages Local Efforts to Preserve Farmland

CA FarmlandAt a recent hearing, American Farmland Trust California Director Edward Thompson, Jr., testified before the state Assembly Agriculture Committee on 10 needed changes in state farmland conservation laws. The state is sending local governments very mixed signals about its commitment to save farmland," he said. The committee is currently considering legislation co-sponsored by American Farmland Trust that would encourage local governments to take more responsibility for conserving farmland.

Emergency Funds Available to Help Drought Stricken California Farmers Conserve Water

CA droughtThe severe drought that California is experiencing will hit farmers and ranchers hard, and now the state is offering aid to help producers conserve water. Although only 10 percent of California’s agricultural land is irrigated, it accounts for most of the state’s $40 billion a year output of crops and livestock products. Due to the third straight year of drought—the state’s biggest “reservoir,” the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, is well below normal—some farmers will receive zero irrigation water from the state’s big water projects. This will force them to pump more groundwater to save their tree and vine crops. In parts of the San Joaquin Valley, the overdraft of groundwater has already caused land to subside, jeopardizing highways, pipelines and, ironically, irrigation canals. "All of this underscores the importance of saving as much farmland as we can," said Edward Thompson, Jr., American Farmland Trust's California director, "especially that with the most reliable, highest quality and least expensive water supplies."

Mid-Atlantic Director Confirmed to Maryland’s Rural Legacy Advisory Committee

Baird.jpgJim Baird, Mid-Atlantic director for American Farmland Trust, was confirmed by the Maryland Senate Executive Nominations Committee as a member of the advisory committee for the Rural Legacy program.

Enacted by the General Assembly in 1997, Maryland’s Rural Legacy Program was created to discourage sprawl development and protect areas for future generations to enjoy. “The program provides farmers and landowners an alternative to developing (or subdividing) their land or selling their property to developers,” said Baird. “It was created specifically to protect large, contiguous tracts of land rich in natural resources, farms and forests. It is a great combination of agriculture and environmental protection.” The 11-member Rural Legacy Advisory Committee and the Rural Legacy Board, which is comprised of Maryland’s Agriculture, Natural Resources and Planning secretaries, review grant applications annually, ultimately leading to recommendations to the governor and Board of Public Works on which Rural Legacy Areas to fund. Since its enactment, the program has protected 75,434 acres of irreplaceable farmland. 

National Farmers Union "Women Making Waves" Conference a Success

Women Making WavesAmerican Farmland Trust is proud to have sponsored the National Farmers Union “Women Making Waves” conference January 1114. Approximately 60 women farmers and ranchers, including American Farmland Trust’s Susan Sink and Jen Filipiak, were in attendance, learning the finer points of business, estate and transition planning in a three-day curriculum provided by Annie’s Project.

“In the Midwest, we estimate that women currently own about half of the agricultural land, and that percentage is growing,” Filipiak noted. “American Farmland Trust is growing its programming for women and this was a great opportunity to continue learning about what women need to be better farmers and leaders in agriculture.” Several accomplished women leaders were in attendance, including U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden, and Jane Alexander, the first woman deputy secretary of agriculture in the United States. The group was large enough to showcase diversity in geography, type of farming, and age but small enough to facilitate learning from attendees’ personal stories.

2014 Conservation Cropping Seminars in Illinois

Frozen FieldAt the first of three “2014 Conservation Cropping Seminars” in Mendota, Illinois on January 28, over 150 farmers, crop consultants and other agriculture conservation professionals learned the ways in which conservation tillage, cover crops and nutrient management can work together for optimum yields and healthy soils.

“The most enlightening part of the day for me was a Q&A session between the audience and three farmers with years of cover crop experience,” said Elliott Lagacy, a farmer and area representative for the Illinois Department of Agriculture. Attendees also re-visited Chemistry 101 with Ken Ferrie, learning about the many ways in which nitrogen cycles through our air, water and crops. Ivan Dozier, Illinois’ State Conservationist with Natural Resources Conservation Services, summed up the lessons of the day, “It was a great day for farmers to learn how they can use many different conservation practices to build healthy soil and provide resiliency to their whole system. They are learning more ways to protect profits and our natural resources.”

Two more seminars are scheduled in Illinois: February 27 in Mt Vernon and March 13 in Normal.

American Society of Agronomy Cover Crop Webinar Series

IL-cover-crop-2.jpgAmerican Farmland Trust is co-sponsoring an American Society of Agronomy Cover Crop webinar series. As cover cropping becomes a more widely used practice for building and protecting soil health in agriculture, farmers are in need of more complex technical assistance as they shift their operations to a rotation that includes cover crops. The webinars will feature a technical expert along with a farmer experienced with cover crops to discuss such topics as maximizing yields through better soil health, seed selection, cover crop termination, and combining cover crops with livestock and manure. Webinars are free and will air every Thursday in March at 12:00PM CST.  Registration is required: https://www.agronomy.org/education/online-courses

Connecticut Governor Malloy Visits Working Lands Alliance 

Gov-Malloy-NE2-Feb-2014.jpgWorking Lands Alliance (WLA) kicked off the 2014 legislative session with a visit from Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy to our monthly Steering Committee meeting. Members of the committee engaged with the governor on the 2014 Policy Priorities, including further protections of state-owned farmland, the pace of farmland preservation in Connecticut and farmland access issues facing Connecticut’s new and beginning farmers. WLA praised the governor for his support of agriculture and farmland preservation efforts over his first term. “The governor truly understands the importance of agriculture in our state and the need for sustained statewide investments in farmland preservation and our farm economy,” said Lisa Bassani, WLA project director. The Malloy administration has protected nearly 900 acres of state-owned farmland, made a $10 million annual commitment to fund Connecticut’s Farmland Preservation Program and provided $5 million in disaster assistance to farmers who suffered weather-related losses in 2013.

Rhode Island Bond Referendum Proposes $3 Million for Farmland Acquisition

Farmer-edit.jpgA $75 million Clean Water, Open Space, and Healthy Communities Bond Referendum proposed by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management includes $3 million to protect working farms and keep them in the hands of farmers. The bond envisions the state purchasing the land, protecting it and then affordably selling or leasing the land to qualified farmers. “American Farmland Trust applauds this initiative by the Chafee Administration,” said Cris Coffin, American Farmland Trust New England director. “Access to affordable farmland is one of the greatest challenges facing new and established farmers alike in New England.” The bond also proposes $500,000 to continue to fund the department’s new Local Agriculture and Seafood Act Program.

Vermont Governor Shumlin Proposes $1.5 Million for Working Lands Enterprises

Vermont farmSeeking to continue the success of the state’s Working Lands Enterprise Fund, the Shumlin administration has proposed $1.5 million for the fund in its FY2015 budget. The Vermont Agency on Agriculture recently highlighted the results from the fund’s first grant round, noting that the $1 million investment has helped create an estimated 45 new jobs. The fund is administered by the Vermont Working Lands Enterprise Board (WLEB), whose mission is to grow the economies, cultures, and communities of Vermont's working landscape by making essential, catalytic investments in critical leverage points of the Vermont farm and forest economy. Notes Cris Coffin, American Farmland Trust New England director, “By focusing on the businesses that work the land, the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative is an important complement to Vermont’s longstanding investments in farm and forest land protection.”

American Farmland Trust Offers Training on Agricultural Conservation Easements

CT barnAgricultural conservation easements differ in important ways from conservation easements. To improve understanding among attorneys, land trust board and staff, and municipal planners about farming on protected land and challenges specific to agriculture, American Farmland Trust and partners Connecticut Land Conservation Council and Connecticut Farmland Trust are hosting a half-day seminar in Middletown, Connecticut, on February 28. The training is part of American Farmland Trust’s Model Agricultural Easement Project, funded through an Agricultural Viability Grant from the Connecticut Department of Agriculture. The seminar will focus on the model agricultural easement developed by the project’s work group and key issues to consider when drafting agricultural easements. For more information and to register, click here.

Remembering Tom Ferraro, Founder of Foodlink, Member of FINYS Leadership Team

tom-ferraro-memorial-photo-Resized.jpgThomas Ferraro, founder of Foodlink, one of the nation’s first food banks, died on February 11. Tom served on the Farm to Institution New York State (FINYS) Leadership Team. “Tom was a visionary,” said Glenda Neff, FINYS coordinator for American Farmland Trust. "He believed that Foodlink's assetsits warehouse, kitchens, trucksand most of all its passionate talented employees, could be used for economic development that would produce jobs, train the unemployed in new skills, and create access to healthy local food. Foodlink as a "local food hub" would, could and has done that.” Those wishing to make a donation in memory of Tom are asked to consider contributing funds to the Foodlink Foundation in his name. Donations can be sent to: Foodlink Foundation, PO Box 60766, Rochester, NY 14606.

American Farmland Trust Budget Testimony Calls for Increased Funding for Farmland Conservation 

laurie-budget-testimony-1-29-14-resized.jpgAmerican Farmland Trust testified at a Joint Legislative Hearing on New York’s 20142105 Executive Budget Proposal held on January 29 in Albany, urging the state Legislature to increase funding for the Farmland Protection Program and the Environmental Protection Fund, beyond the modest increases proposed by Governor Cuomo in his Executive Budget, released on January 21.

In his Executive Budget, Governor Cuomo proposed a $4 million increase for the Environmental Protection Fund and an increase for Farmland Protection Program funding from $13 million to $14 million in state Fiscal Year (SFY) 20142015. “We appreciate Governor Cuomo’s recognition of the need to expand funding for the Farmland Protection Program and the Environmental Protection Fund,” said Laura Ten Eyck, American Farmland Trust’s senior manager of New York projects and outreach. “However, the funding proposed is capable of satisfying only a small fraction of the demand for state farmland conservation funds.”  Read more

American Farmland Trust Receives Grant To Expand Local Markets For Farmers Through Farm To Institution New York State Partnership 

LEP GrantThe Local Economies Project of the New World Foundation has awarded American Farmland Trust a grant of $200,000 to enable the Farm to Institution New York State (FINYS)  partnership to create new economic opportunities for New York’s farmers while improving the health of New Yorkers by increasing the amount of locally grown food served in institutions. “The Local Economies Project is proud to continue its support of American Farmland Trust’s FINYS,” said Bob Dandrew of the Local Economies Project. “Getting local food into institutional settings is critical to our health and to the viability of our local farming economy. FINYS is doing an outstanding job of bringing farmers and processors, institutional buyers, and the people they service together to create strong market channels we need for a more resilient food system in New York State.”  Read more…

A Win for Pierce County, Washington, Farming

WA-farm.jpgVictory!  Two years ago American Farmland Trust joined Futurewise, PCC Farmland Trust, Tahoma Audubon, and Friends of Pierce County in an appeal to prevent a major new subdivision and shopping mall - Orton Junction - from being built on 182 acres of high-quality farmland in Pierce County, just south of Tacoma. American Farmland Trust and partners won the first round, but the developer and the city of Sumner appealed the verdict to the Washington Superior Court. Earlier this week the developer and the city dropped their appeal. "We'd prefer to stay out of the courts," said Dennis Canty, American Farmland Trust's Northwest regional director, "But every once in a while a big project on farmland makes it through the planning stages and a legal challenge is necessary. This is one of those times and we're happy with the win." 

Farmland Forever Website Unveiled

Farmland ForeverAmerican Farmland Trust recently unveiled a new website—farmland-forever.org—focused on farmland protection in the Puget Sound region of western Washington. The site explains some of the most effective tools for protecting farmland through easements and zoning and includes links to briefing materials, studies and ordinances developed by agencies and organizations in the Northwest. "We're excited to get this information out to planners, elected officials, and advocates in the region and look forward to suggestions about the current content and useful additions," said site developer Joe Basile of the American Farmland Trust Northwest office. The website is part of American Farmland Trust's ongoing Farmland Forever campaign that seeks to protect an additional 100,000 acres of farmland in the Puget Sound region by 2018. 

Farmland Mitigation in Washington

Urban sprawlAmerican Farmland Trust and a coalition of other farmland organizations have drafted an Executive Order for consideration by Washington Governor Inslee. If adopted, the Executive Order would require that state agencies compensate for farmland losses associated with their projects by paying into a fund that would protect farmland or reestablish farm use elsewhere. The requirement would apply to all projects supported by state permitting, financing or other assistance. "We got a good reception to the idea yesterday in a meeting with Director Bud Hover of the Washington Department of Agriculture," said Dennis Canty, "And we'll be discussing the idea with farmers and farm organizations throughout the state in the coming weeks."


No Farms No Food | American Farmland Trust

©2014 American Farmland Trust. All Rights Reserved.
1150 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 600
Washington, D.C. 20036
202 331 7300

Click here to unsubscribe or change your email preferences