March E-News: 3 Million Acres of Farm and Ranch Land Permanently Protected by Land Trusts


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Welcome to the March 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. 
 

Survey Reveals 3 Million Acres of Farmland Protected by Land Trusts

sprawl-on-ranch-land.jpgNew data from American Farmland Trust’s Farmland Information Center reveal that private land trusts have permanently protected 3 million acres of U.S. farm and ranch land. Roughly a quarter was saved in partnership with state and local purchase of agricultural conservation easement (PACE) programs. Together, land trusts and public programs have protected about 5 million acres for agriculture. A small number of land trusts did most of the work: 52 land trusts protected 95 percent of the land, and 55 hold 87 percent of the easements. These organizations tend to be located in states with PACE programs, leaving parts of the country without a viable option for agricultural landowners interested in permanent protection. A Nationwide Survey of Land Trusts that Protect Farm and Ranch Land and a summary of these and other key findings is available at www.farmlandinfo.org

American Farmland Trust Helps Issue Conservation Compliance Report

farmer-harvesting-wheat.jpgAmerican Farmland Trust recently helped release a new report by former USDA Deputy Secretary Jim Moseley. Conservation Compliance: A 25-Year Legacy of Stewardship explains how conservation compliance has helped save millions of wetland acres while keeping billions of tons of soil on farms by requiring farmers to implement conservation measures in return for federally funded farm support. As a result, millions of acres of marginal, erosion-prone lands have remained healthy and productive.

The report urges Congress to reattach conservation compliance to crop insurance premium assistance in the next farm bill. As federal farm policy is updated, it is increasingly likely that some commodity programs will be phased out in favor of a strengthened crop insurance program. American Farmland Trust has been briefing congressional staff and commodity organizations on the report and the significant benefits from reattaching conservation compliance to crop insurance premium subsidies.

Farm Bill Could Be Even Costlier in 2013

river_fields_drop-right.jpgThe Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released an updated analysis that shows significantly less savings associated with last year's Senate and House Agriculture Committee versions of the farm bill if they were enacted in 2013. The new calculations, while accounting for a one-year shift in the period covered, reduce previously estimated savings for conservation programs by $1.3 to $1.7 billion over 10 years.

“This has the potential for negative impacts to conservation as work begins on the farm bill this year,” explains Jeremy Peters, director of federal policy at American Farmland Trust. “It means paying for the same programs to protect farms and to provide cleaner water, healthier soil and more abundant wildlife will be more expensive than anticipated. The agriculture committees will have greater pressure to cut programs in order to satisfy budgetary constraints, making it even more important for support for conservation programs this year.”

We need your help to protect these vital programs. Visit the AFT action center today to learn more about what you can do today!

OUR WORK AROUND THE COUNTRY

Proposed California Bill Would Preserve One Acre of Farmland for Every Acre Developed

California orchard and encroaching developmentAmerican Farmland Trust is a co-sponsor of California Bill AB 823, which would preserve an acre of farmland for every acre that is developed. Introduced by Chair of the Assembly Agriculture Committee Susan Talamantes Eggman, the legislation would require agencies and developers of farmland to pay fees for the acquisition of conservation easements. It would also enable them to avoid lengthy analysis of agricultural impacts and lawsuits based on those impacts by saving 2 acres of farmland for every 1 they develop. "This bill should benefit both agriculture and developers by clarifying the rules on farmland mitigation and creating a new source of funding for farmland preservation," said American Farmland Trust California Director Edward Thompson, Jr. "California continues to lose 30,000 acres of farmland a year, and it is time to try something different to stem this loss."

Other co-sponsors of the bill are the California Climate & Agriculture Network and the Community Alliance with Family Farmers. Download a fact sheet, read the proposed bill and chart its progress at calclimateag.org.

Taking a Risk on the Farm Proves Economically Rewarding, Environmentally Beneficial in Maryland

Manure-injection.jpgThe past three years of work on Maryland’s Eastern Shore has provided important information to farmers and agricultural advisors about the relationship between on-farm conservation and water quality. Starting in 2012, seven Maryland farmers worked with American Farmland Trust; Agflex, Inc.; and local crop advisor Don Moore to test new fertilizer practices on a portion of their crop land by participating in the BMP Challenge. The risk proved rewarding, with an average increased profit of $6 per acre while reducing nitrogen applied by 7 pounds per acre on the test acres. “Throughout the entire BMP Challenge process, farmers demonstrated their willingness and eagerness to learn,” explained Moore. “They want to adopt new technologies if they make good economic sense.” Read more details about these Eastern Shore efforts

No Farms No Food® Rally: The Time is Right to Advocate for Farmland Protection in New York

2013-No-Farms-No-Food-Rally.jpgThe No Farms No Food® Rally took place during heated budget negotiations between New York Governor Cuomo and the Legislature. Sixteen lobby teams met with more than 70 state legislators. “We were joined by young farmers, mature farmers, land trusts and conservation organizations, hunger relief and public health advocates, and local food groups to tell our elected officials that protecting farmland and growing food in New York state matters,” said David Haight, New York state director for American Farmland Trust, in  Episode 42 - No Farms No Food Rally 2013 Part 2: AFT Priorities on the Heritage Radio Network.  

Farmland Advisors Spring into Action in the Northeast

Farmland-Advisors.jpgAmerican Farmland Trust and Land for Good’s Farmland Advisors program is educating agriculture service providers to help the next generation of farmers access land and help farm families facilitate the transfer to the next generation. Farmland Advisors started in February with a webinar for the program’s 80 participants, from New York and New England. The program is funded by a grant from the Northeast SARE Professional Development Program and support from a Farm Credit Northeast AgEnhancment grant. Participants represent land trusts, beginning farmer organizations, extension offices, lending institutions and local and state agencies. 

New York State Funds Protect 14 Farms in 2012-2013

Protected-Farms-FY-2012-2013-Sunset-Ridge-Dairy.jpgNew York’s Farmland Protection Program aided in permanently protecting 14 farms in state fiscal year 2012-2013, which closes March 31. The farms are located across the state from Long Island to the Hudson Valley, the Finger Lakes Region and Western New York, and represent a full range of agriculture including nursery, dairy and crop farming. One farm, Sunset Ridge Dairy, located in Dutchess County, is operated by Kevin Smith. "We wanted to plan for our retirement and pass the farm on, as it is, to our daughters," says Smith. "Protecting our farm allows us to provide agricultural land for future generations.”

Big Re-zoning of Farmland in Pierce County, Washington

Onion-plants-in-Washington-State.jpgAmerican Farmland Trust and a group of local conservation and farmland organizations have banded together to fight the re-zoning of more than 11,500 acres of farmland in Pierce County, Washington. The county has very stringent criteria for designating farmland in its Agricultural Resource Land (ARL) zone and now contends that half of the land mapped in this zone doesn’t meet the criteria. “If the land is dropped from the ARL zone, it will be far more vulnerable to suburban development,” said Dennis Canty, Pacific Northwest director for American Farmland Trust. “This must be stopped now.” American Farmland Trust is requesting a two-year delay while a study can be done of the appropriate zoning for all of the county’s 45,000 acres of farmland.

Upcoming Conference: Planning for Agriculture in the Puget Sound Region

Puget Sound farm and farmlandSeats are filling fast for American Farmland Trust’s April 26 conference on planning for agriculture in the Puget Sound region. The American Planning Association, Forterra and the Cascade Harvest Coalition have signed on as cosponsors, and speakers from Pennsylvania, Vermont and California have been confirmed. Readers who are interested should register soon

American Farmland Trust—Pacific Northwest on Facebook

Facebook-logo-80px.jpgWill you be our 1,000th friend?  Sign up on our Facebook page (American Farmland Trust – Pacific Northwest) and get up-to-the-minute news on what’s happening with farmland protection around the Northwest.  


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