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Grant Opportunity! For Illinois Growers to Reduce Pesticide Reliance

Snapshot of Illinois Agriculture

Farming on the Edge: Illinois Farmland in the Path of Development


The Apple as Planet Earth Presentation
The Apple As Planet Earth

Do you know how much of the earth is suitable for farming? Watch the video and learn why protecting our farmland is so important.

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Did you know that the state of Illinois has been losing more than 65 acres of farmland per day? You have the power to help save our farms and farmland. You can directly support Illinois farmers and farmers markets by taking these simple actions.
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American Farmland Trust Promotes 2015 Illinois Conservation Cropping Seminars (ICCS) 

Updated 02/19/2015

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:

Register Online!

Leadership for Midwestern Watersheds (LMW)

Posted 02/19/2015

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.

Successful Conservation Cropping Seminar was Held in Normal, Illinois

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.


National Conference on Cover Crops and Soil Health

CoverCrop.jpgThe National Conference on Cover Crops and Soil Health, held February 17-19, 2014, in Omaha, Nebraska, brought 300 agricultural leaders 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 developed?"

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.


National Farmers Union "Women Making Waves" Conference a Success

American 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.


Women Farmland Owners Share and Learn About Conservation at Illinois Learning Circle

Women Landowners Learning Circle in Cole County, IllinoisThe 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 organizationsthe 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.

Assessing the Economic Impact of Local Food Production for Kane County, Illinois

Farmer holding vegetablesAmerican 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 to 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 farmland protection 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, contribute approximately $15 million in annual economic activity and create more than 100 new jobs. Visit the HIA website to access the Kane County Health Impact Assessment Report


American Farmland Trust Midwest Director Accepts Reappointment to Agricultural Statistics Advisory Committee

Mike Baise, Midwest Director, American Farmland TrustMike 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, Mike!


Illinois Passes Legislation to Help Farmers and Water Quality

Midwest cornfieldIllinois 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.”


Female Landowners in Illinois Share Their Stories About Farmslearning circle

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.” 


Webinar Provides Overview of BMP Challenge

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 farm on the edge of ChicagoIllinois 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.

Contact Us
Michael Baise
Midwest Director
2717 Blue Ridge Court
Bloomington, IN 47408
(317) 508-0756

To learn more about agriculture in your state, visit the Illinois state profile page at the Farmland Information Center.

American Farmland Trust