Washington, D.C., December 19, 2008 — "I am delighted that President-elect Barack Obama has nominated a good friend, Rep. Ray LaHood (R-IL), as Secretary of Transportation. We both hail from rural Illinois, and I know he’ll bring a unique perspective and understanding to the transportation and infrastructure needs of rural America and agriculture,” says Jon Scholl, American Farmland Trust (AFT) President.
AFT studies show that farmland is being lost to development at a rate of 2,880 acres per day, and over the long-term this loss of a strategic natural resource has grave consequences for the health of our nation. In fact, since the last National Agricultural Lands Study [PDF] was conducted, nearly 27 million acres of American farm and ranch land have been paved over permanently. “We have confidence that as Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood will be sensitive to the impact of federal transportation projects upon the conversion of valuable farmland, and on protected farms and ranches,” adds Scholl.
The Farmland Protection Policy Act requires federal agencies that use tax dollars to finance projects, like highways, to look at alternatives in order to conserve farmland. “It’s a valuable tool and the faithful enforcement of this law helps to prevent the needless and permanent loss of more farmland.”
At the same time, Scholl notes that transportation and infrastructure projects can also be a key element in promoting a viable agriculture, which, in turn, can generate “green jobs.” President-elect Obama made a strong point of this in remarks this week when he stated, “How we harness our natural resources—from the farmlands of Iowa to the springs of Colorado—will speak not only to our quality of life, but to our economic growth and our energy future.”
“President-elect Obama has made another excellent choice to lead his cabinet agencies. Representative LaHood is a man of great capabilities and outstanding character. We look forward to his swift confirmation, and to helping him in his work,” concluded Scholl.
American Farmland Trust is the nation’s leading conservation organization dedicated to saving America’s farm and ranch land, promoting environmentally sound farming practices and supporting a sustainable future for farms. Since its founding in 1980 by a group of farmers and citizens concerned about the rapid loss of farmland to development, AFT has helped save millions of acres of farmland from development and led the way for the adoption of conservation practices on millions more.
AFT’s national office is located in Washington, DC. Phone: 202-331-7300. For more information, visit www.farmland.org.