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American Farmland Trust is the lead sponsor and an organizational partner of the Illinois Conservation Cropping Seminar series. Participants are learning how to incorporate reduced tillage and cover crops as part of their nutrient management planning and soil health program. Dr. Hans Kok, a nationally recognized soil health expert, was very well received at both the January 27th Sycamore and February 4th Mattoon seminars. “Farmers and farmland owners are seeking knowledge on how improved soil health can increase agricultural productivity and cleaner water” said Mike Baise, AFT Midwest Director, “these seminars provide them with excellent sources of information.” Attendance at both meetings has been very good in spite of the challenging Midwest weather. The final 2015 ICCS will be held in Macomb on February 18th on the campus of Western Illinois University. Registration can be done online at www.ccswcd.com
The seminars will be held from 8:15am to 5:00pm on:
American Farmland Trust hosted the 2015 Leadership for Midwestern Watersheds meeting in Sycamore, Illinois, January 21-22. The meeting has become an important annual event for watershed project managers in the Midwest region. The focus of this year’s LMW meeting was the USDA NRCS Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) and how projects can be best organized and sustained. “The meeting was very timely and well-attended as RCPP project managers had just learned days earlier about which projects had been funded” said Jen Filipiak, AFT Associate Midwest Director “we were fortunate to have the two NRCS staff most knowledgeable about the program’s implementation as speakers.” Mark Rose, NRCS Director of Financial Assistance Programs and Meghan Wilson, NRCS Conservation Initiatives Coordinator, explained how the program will work and how RCPP projects can be successful. A meeting executive summary will soon be available on the AFT website.
On March 13, 2014, the final of three successful Conservation Cropping Seminars was held at Heartland
Community College in Normal, Illinois. "We were ecstatic at the response to these seminars," remarked Joe
Bybee, with the Illinois Department of Agriculture. "Approximately 450 farmers, industry,
academia and government agency staff were present for some great
discussion." The seminars’ theme was
managing conservation cropping systems-–utilizing together three best
management practices: cover crops, conservation tillage, and nutrient
management. "Farmers often say they want
more time to chat with their peers, industry professionals, and researchers,"
commented Robert "Woody" Woodruff with the Illinois Stewardship Alliance, "So we included one and a half hours at each
session to networking, and it was successful!"
About 20 businesses and organizations co-sponsored the events,
including American Farmland Trust, Monsanto,Illinois Department of
Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. Plans
for 2015 are underway-–January 27th in DeKalb, February 4th in Mattoon and February 18th in Macomb.
The National Conference on Cover Crops and Soil Health,
held February 17-19, 2014, in Omaha, Nebraska, brought 300 agricultural
and innovators together to explore how to make American agriculture more
sustainable through improved soil health. Attendees from agricultural
industry, the farm community, academia,
government, commodity and conservation organizations wrestled with the
question "Can we achieve 20 million acres of cover crops by 2020?" Jen
Filipiak, who was
in attendance for American Farmland Trust, said, "The first full day we
learned about new
research with cover crops and soil health. The second day was divided
into small working groups to address barriers
to cover crop adoption–-what research, outreach, or markets need to be
The plenary sessions, recorded
and available online, were broadcast at more than 200 Natural Resources
Conservation Service (NRCS) and Extension offices nationwide to an additional
6,000 farmers and agricultural professionals, allowing them to participate and
engage in local conversations. The conference was sponsored by the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) and The Howard G. Buffett Foundation.
American Farmland Trust is proud to have sponsored the National Farmers Union
“Women Making Waves” conference January 11–14. 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.
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
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
future of farmland in Illinois was the center of a June 26, 2013, women-only
learning circle for female landowners in Mattoon, Illinois. Hosted by
American Farmland Trust, Prairie Rivers and the Women, Food and Agriculture
Network, the meeting brought Illinois women landowners together with women from
local partner organizations—the farm bureaus and the Soil and Water Conservation
Districts in Coles and Douglas counties—to discuss conservation practices on their
farmland. The women discussed the need to improve soil health, address invasive
species and pass a new Farm Bill. When confronted with the application process
for federal conservation programs, one participant remarked, “I feel like there
is some kind of secret society I don’t belong to with an alphabet soup of
acronyms.” An afternoon tour included stops to see wetland restoration, native
grass buffers along ditches, hedge rows, cover crops, grass waterways, and
stabilization structures. With four inches of rain the night before, it was
easy to see that the conservation practices had helped protect the soil and
prevent erosion. Learn
more about AFT’s work to empower women landowners.
Farmland Trust has been helping the Kane County, Illinois, Health and Community
Services Departments with a Health Impact
Assessment (HIA) to review the
potential impacts of amending the county’s farmland protection ordinance
make land available for local food production. American Farmland Trust
conducted research, reviewed the ordinance, identified
indicators and engaged Dave Swenson
from Iowa State University, to assess the potential
economic contribution of increasing fruit and vegetable production in
the county. “This work is a valuable lesson in the changing demands on
programs,” explains Julia Freedgood, Managing Director of Farmland and
Community Initiatives at American Farmland Trust. The research found
2,157 acres of a
representative sample of 24 crops could
serve about 445,000 people in the greater Chicago metro region,
approximately $15 million in annual economic activity and create more
new jobs. Visit the HIA website to access the Kane County Health Impact Assessment Report.
Baise, Midwest Director for American Farmland Trust, has recently been
reappointed to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Advisory Committee on Agriculture Statistics. In this role, Baise helps to advise the U.S. Secretary of
Agriculture and NASS on the conduct of the agricultural census and surveys,
critical tools in helping to understand the landscape of American agriculture.
“I am pleased to be reappointed by Secretary Vilsack,” said Baise. “U.S. farmers,
agribusinesses and consumers depend on the valuable information gathered
through the various NASS surveys, crop reports and Agricultural Census. NASS
employees work hard to provide accurate and timely information so crucial to
making sound agricultural policy and business decisions.” Congratulations,
Illinois farmers, environmental advocates and agricultural industry partners have cause to celebrate new legislation to help farmers deliver significant improvements in water quality. The bill is part of the Keep it for the Crop (KIC 2025) initiative, which is supported by a coalition of agricultural and environmental organizations working to improve nutrient management. “When enacted this legislation will go a long way to educate farmers and the public about the best management practices of nutrient management. A portion of the fees will also support the fertilizer program at the Illinois Department of Agricultur," explained Mike Baise, Midwest Director for American Farmland Trust, . Congratulations to our Illinois partners for getting this landmark legislation passed.”
The face of American agriculture is undergoing a dramatic shift. As the overall farm population ages during the next 20 years, 70 percent of farmland is expected to change hands and women may own up to 75 percent of the land that is transferred. On April 16, American Farmland Trust’s Center for Agriculture in the Environment and Midwest office, along with the Women, Food and Agriculture Network and local partners, hosted the first Lady Landowners Learning Circle in Illinois. Twenty-two women took part and shared their stories about managing their family’s farmland, and the workshop was featured on Iowa Public Radio as part of broader outreach to female landowners. “The next 10 years represent a significant window of opportunity for engaging women landowners in conservation,” said Ann Sorensen, Director of Research at American Farmland Trust. “We must act now before the next wave of land transitions begins.”
Agriculture represents one of the most cost-effective ways to improve water quality. With high levels of nutrient runoff from Illinois watersheds, Best Management Practices (BMPs) used by farmers can positively impact the environment and, when done right, also improve the farmer’s bottom line. Our BMP Challenge is a crop yield guarantee that helps farmers adopt conservation practices by overcoming the barrier of risk. In a recent webinar, Targeted Application of the BMP Challengein East Central Illinois and the Illiana region [ZIP file] (web video coming soon), we addressed the basics of the program and more about what we are trying to do with the BMP Challenge in the area.
Northern Counties Scan Horizon for an Agricultural Future
Illinois agricultural land is being developed at an increasingly fast pace, especially in rural and suburban landscapes. Although preservation of farmland and agricultural activities are not highly prioritized for all communities, it is important to realize that preservation in only some areas will still benefit an entire region.
Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) is the comprehensive regional planning organization for the seven counties of northeastern Illinois. By state and federal law, CMAP is responsible for producing the region's official, integrated plan for land use and transportation. The agency's innovative GO TO 2040 planning campaign will develop and implement strategies to address projected population and employment growth and its serious implications for transportation, housing, economic development, open space, the environment, and other quality of life issues. CMAP's strategy for agricultural preservation—which outlines the importance of agriculture to northeastern Illinois and the costs and benefits associated with preservation—can be found at GO TO 2040 website and the public is strongly encouraged to give feedback and participate in shaping the plan.
center for agriculture in the environment
Our Center for Agriculture in the Environment (CAE), located in DeKalb, helps protect America's agricultural lands and encourage healthy farming practices. CAE works closely with the academic, environmental and agricultural communities
to raise awareness of issues by providing research and strong academic arguments for wise public policy.
2717 Blue Ridge Court
Bloomington, IN 47408
To learn more about agriculture in your state, visit the Illinois state profile page at the Farmland Information Center.