November E-News: Farm Bill Conference Begins and Food Policy Convening Brings Ag and Health Together

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

Farm Bill Conference Begins, Conservation Compliance Remains Undecided Issue

farmer standing in harvested field

Members of the panel that will negotiate a final Farm Bill have begun the process of establishing priorities and identifying areas that will require compromise. The first business meeting of the Farm Bill conference committee occurred on October 30, and remains ongoing.

"A key conservation issue that several conference committee members identified as a priority for compromise was conservation compliance," said Jeremy Peters, American Farmland Trust Director of Federal Policy. "Members on both sides of the aisle sounded off on the need to reattach conservation compliance to federal crop insurance premium assistance," which American Farmland Trust continues to press negotiators to include in the new Farm Bill.

Your help is needed now more than ever! Contact your Members of Congress today and tell them how important conservation compliance is in the Farm Bill.

Food Policy Convening Brings Ag and Health Together

Child with AppleA small group of food policy councils and national leaders in agriculture, health and food systems policy gathered in Chicago on November 13 and 14 to identify leadership, policy and resource needs as well as opportunities to work together to address childhood obesity. The 2013 Food Policy Council convening was co-hosted by Change Lab Solutions and the Healthy Farms Healthy People Coalition (HFHP) and designed to build partnerships to strengthen food policy efforts.

As an HFHP steering committee member, American Farmland Trust has been working to find common ground on agricultural and public health policy. “The passion and commitment of these food policy councils were truly inspiring,” says Julia Freedgood, American Farmland Trust's Managing Director of Farmland & Community Initiatives. “They are doing cutting edge work to support local farmers and improve community access to healthy food.”  Freedgood moderated a session “Working Together through Food Policy Councils.” Read American Farmland Trust’s report on Food Policy Councils.


California Legislative Committee Holds Hearing on Farmland Conservation

California OrchardOn November 6, the Agriculture Committee of the California State Assembly, chaired by Member Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton), held an information hearing on farmland conservation at the state Capitol. It was the first hearing on the subject in the legislature in a decade. Edward Thompson, Jr., American Farmland Trust California Director, was among the witnesses who discussed the status of farmland and the effectiveness of state and local policies at conserving the resource.

Thompson outlined 10 state policies that “at best, send mixed signals to local governments, which make most of the decisions about land use.” He said that, despite the good intentions of the Williamson Act, the California Farmland Conservancy Program and other state laws aimed at reducing urban sprawl, “we continue to lose 30,000 acres of farmland a year to wasteful, inefficient development—with no end in sight, unless our policies are strengthened and local governments are held accountable.”

Montgomery County, Illinois, Cover Crop Event

WinterwheatThe Montgomery County Soil and Water Conservation District, along with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and American Farmland Trust, hosted a cover crop meeting and field tour on November 14 in Hillsboro, Illinois. The educational meeting featured cover crop professionals, cropping systems experts and farmers experienced with cover crops. The event concluded with a tour of cover crop sites around Montgomery County. Mike Baise, American Farmland Trust Midwest Director, says, “We are sponsoring several of these educational events around Illinois and the farmer response to them has been very encouraging. Cover crops are rapidly gaining in popularity in Illinois.” Cover crops are a beneficial conservation practice, they absorb soil nutrients and prevent them from leaching into tile systems and hold soil in place over the winter months. More information about future meetings can be found by contacting the Montgomery SWCD office at (217) 532-3610, ext.3.

Cover Crop Tour to Take Place in McLean County, Illinois

Illinois cover crop meeting crowdAmerican Farmland Trust and The Nature Conservancy in Illinois are partnering with the McLean County Soil and Water Conservation District, the Illinois Department of Agriculture, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Lumpkin Foundation for a Cover Crop Tour of McLean County on November 20. A soil health presentation by NRCS Soil Scientist Roger Windhorn, will be followed by tours of farms using cover crops near Shirley, Chenoa and Lexington, Illinois. “We are very happy to have so many great partners with this tour,” said American Farmland Trust’s Midwest Director Mike Baise. “It is further proof that farmers are interested in cover crops and their contribution to soil health." For more information on the tour, visit McLean County SWCD or call (309) 452-0830, ext. 3.

Lake Mauvaise Terre Dredging Approved

LakeThe City of Jacksonville recently received U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) permission to dredge portions of Lake Mauvaise Terre in Morgan County, Illinois, to improve water storage capacity. American Farmland Trust has been approved for an Illinois EPA grant to do conservation education and outreach activities for farmers and farmland owners in the watershed. American Farmland Trust Midwest Director Mike Baise recently met with Jacksonville Mayor Andy Ezard and several city aldermen to discuss project coordination. “This is very good news for Jacksonville as Lake Mauvaise Terre is the reserve water supply for the city and has been badly affected by decades of siltation,” said Baise. “It makes perfect sense for American Farmland Trust and Jacksonville to coordinate efforts to encourage ag conservation practices up in the watershed to protect the investment the city is about to make in the dredging project.”

Farming Protected Land Workshops Completed in Connecticut

ConnecticutBLand trust boards, municipal commissions and agency staff from all over Connecticut attended the three “Farming Protected Land” workshops held October 10 and 17, and November 2. Participants received an update on the changing face of agriculture, participated in dialogue about efforts to develop model agricultural easement language, explored issues around farmland access and reviewed easement language from a local farmland protection project. After a lunch that featured locally grown foods, they toured the farm and discussed the challenges and opportunities of farming protected land. The farms selected for each workshop varied and included a dairy farm, beef producer, and a diversified fruit and vegetable farm.

The workshops were offered as part of American Farmland Trust’s Model Agricultural Easement Project. The project, in partnership with the Connecticut Land Conservation Council (CLCC) and the Connecticut Farmland Trust (CFT) was funded through a CT Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Viability Grant. A fourth workshop is planned for January 2014 to provide trainning for easement drafters on the completed model easement language.

New York State Catches Up On Backlog of Farmland Protection Projects

NY State Catches UpWhen funding for New York’s Farmland Protection Program was slashed during the economic meltdown of 2008, the state was faced with funding commitments of more than $70 million to 61 farm families to aid them in protecting their land.  Since then the state has been working hard to close outstanding projects. Governor Cuomo recently announced the disbursement of $7 million in funds to purchase conservation easements on eight farms, permanently protecting 3,200 acres of farmland from real estate development. “Agriculture is a critical part of New York’s economy,” said Governor Cuomo. “This funding helps preserve working farmland so that this vital industry can remain robust for generations to come.” The protected farms are located across the state, from Long Island to Central New York and the Finger Lake Region, and run the agricultural gamut including several dairy farms, a grain producer, a vineyard, a horse breeding and boarding operation, and a nursery. By the end of the year, the Farmland Protection Program is projected to have fewer than 20 outstanding commitments requiring $20 million in state funds.

Farmers Urge New York State to Start Taking New Applications for Farmland Protection Funding 

NY Farmers Calls NY to StartNicholas Pandijiris and Eileen Wallding, of Whistle Down Farm, a vegetable CSA in Columbia County, want to protect their 60 acres of farmland along the Taghkanic Creek with a conservation easement, which the Columbia Land Conservancy would purchase with funding from the state’s Farmland Protection Program. “We have maxed out our current market,” said Pandijiris. “The only way we can grow our business is by developing new products to sell to our customers.” They want to use the state funding they would receive in exchange for placing an easement on their land to diversify their farm operation by adding a pick–your-own blueberries and a goat dairy. The only problem is the State of New York has not taken any new applications for farmland conservation funding since 2008.

 No Farms No Food® Speaker Series Kicks Off in Seattle in November

Andrew StoutAmerican Farmland Trust’s Pacific Northwest Office will host the first event in a new speaker series on November 20 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in Seattle, Washington. Andrew Stout of Full Circle Farm will speak and answer questions about his experience leading one of the largest local organic produce delivery operations. Full Circle supplies farm-to-table organic produce boxes to more than 18,000 customers year-round. Come join us for an interesting talk, a good beer and plenty of time to mingle with fellow food and farm supporters. "We're planning to host talks every month through the winter," said Jackie Dagger, American Farmland Trust’s outreach and events coordinator in the region. " We're really excited to have Andrew, a pioneer and leader in large-scale organic farming, as our first speaker." The location is the Asgard Tasting Room at 1300 N. Northlake Way in Seattle, right across from American Farmland Trust's regional office.  Please RSVP to

Another Planting Day in the Snoqualmie Valley

tree-planting.pngFollowing the Pacific Northwest successful planting event in September, where more than 1,000 trees and shrubs were planted despite a driving rainstorm, American Farmland Trust hosted another community tree planting day on a Snoqualmie Valley farm on Saturday, November 16. According to Christy Carr, American Farmland Trust's conservation manager in the Pacific Northwest, "These planting projects have been a great way to get to know farms and farmers in the area, help rebuild salmon populations and improve water quality in the Snoqualmie River." 

Harsdorf Bill Would Expand Agricultural Enterprise Areas (AEAs)

WisconsinWisconsin state Senator Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls), has sponsored a bill that would raise the cap on Agricultural Enterprise Areas (AEAs) from 1 million to 2 million acres. Senator Harsdorf’s bill would allow for growth of the AEA program, which provides state tax credits for farmers, keeps land in agriculture, and stimulates local farm economies. AEAs are blocks of land that are primarily in agricultural use, either for farming or for businesses that serve the farming sector. They are created when local governments together with at least five local landowners petition the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and the department approves the designation. 

AEAs have proven to be a popular addition to the state’s farmland protection toolbox. American Farmland Trust, along with the Gathering Waters Conservancy and other partners, supported and worked for passage of the Wisconsin Working Lands Initiative in 2009. The initiative updated and enhanced the state’s farmland preservation tools. Learn more about AEAs and other farmland protection tools in Wisconsin.


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