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On March 11, 2014, the
Ohio River Basin Water Quality Trading pilot program celebrated the sale of the
nation’s first interstate water quality stewardship credits. Water Quality Trading (WQT) allows
facilities to meet required pollution reductions by paying farmers to install
conservation practices like heavy use protection areas for livestock and cover
crops that reduce pollution by specific amounts. The resulting pollution reductions become
verified credits that can be bought and sold. "American Farmland Trust provided
hands-on help to farmers, state agricultural and resource agencies, and soil
and water conservation districts to ensure the benefits were there for both
farmers and the environment," said American Farmland Trust’s Brian Brandt, the
project’s agricultural coordinator. "We
also brought our experience with trading programs in other regions of the
country to help the project." American Farmland Trust’s President, Andrew McElwaine,
was on hand to introduce Indiana State Conservationist Jane Hardisty during
the festivities, and Brian Brandt questioned the farmers about their experiences.
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
American Farmland Trust
is co-sponsoring an American Society of Agronomy Cover Crop webinar series. As cover cropping becomes a more
widely used practice for building and protecting soil health in agriculture, farmers
are in need of more complex technical assistance as they shift their operations
to a rotation that includes cover crops. The webinars will feature a technical expert along with a farmer
experienced with cover crops to discuss such topics as maximizing yields
through better soil health, seed selection, cover crop termination, and
combining cover crops with livestock and manure. Webinars are free and will air every Thursday
in March at 12:00PM CST. Registration is required: https://www.agronomy.org/education/online-courses
and Joyce Peden open their Monroe County, Indiana, farm to school
children to see, feel, smell and taste agriculture. This annual family
tradition started with Joe’s parents in 1952. This year 2,200 children
kindergarten to third grade came to the Peden farm over two days.
stations operated by 200 farmers, 4-H and Future Farmers of America
volunteers taught children about agriculture and food production.
on hay wagons through a cow pasture, rode horses and brushed livestock,
pumped water and shelled corn the old fashioned way—by hand. They
blacksmith making horse shoes and churned butter. American Farmland
Trust's Midwest Director
Michael Baise has volunteered at the event for more than 10 years. “This
likely the only experience these children will ever have on a working
Baise said. “Several teachers commented that they came here when they
children and they appreciate the Peden family for providing this rare
Farmland Trust is hard at work in five southeastern Indiana
counties—Dearborn, Ohio, Ripley, Switzerland and Wayne—helping the Soil
and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) work with farmers to pilot test the nation’s first regional water quality trading market in the Ohio River Basin.
The project is led by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and
American Farmland Trust is a collaborating partner. Here’s how it works:
EPRI is providing funds that flow through the state agencies in
Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky to the participating SWCDs. The SWCDs then
provide funds to help farmers install best management practices to
reduce nutrient run-off into water and generate credits that EPRI will
sell later this year to test the market. Mike Baise, American Farmland
Trust’s Midwest Director, is not surprised that the Indiana SWCDs are on
the cutting edge. “Indiana is a leader in implementing practices that
conserve soil and protect water quality because of the leadership of the
Indiana State Department of Agriculture, our State Conservationist,
Jane Hardisty, and our SWCDs,” he explains. “Their participation in this
project is just one more example of helping producers balance
production with environmental stewardship.”
of on-going work to educate and empower women landowners in the Midwest,
American Farmland Trust and our local partners convened a pair of
informal discussions—or “learning circles”—for women farmland owners.
in the women-only discussion owned from 6 acres to more than 2,000 acres
and were a
mix of owner-operators and non-operating landowners. They discussed
ranging from soil erosion to cover crops to conservation easements;
professionals were also on-hand to answer their questions. Local
partners for the learning circles were Indiana Farm Bureau, USDA Natural
Service, the Central Indiana Land Trust and the county farm bureaus and
Soil and Water
Conservation Districts of Howard and Hendricks counties. American
Trust hopes to follow up with the participants and hold future session
topics such as conservation for row crops, use of cover crops, tax
experiences, marketing alternatives and specialty crops, keeping creeks
eroding, and pollinators.
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,
All farmers and ranchers know preparing for the year ahead starts with looking back at the bright spots and challenges from the seasons before. At AFT, we’re proud that in 2012 we rallied farmers and citizens alike to advocate on behalf of protecting farm and ranch land. Our innovative projects helped family farmers pioneer sound farming practices, which help to preserve our land and water resources. We also laid the groundwork to keep farmers on the land by providing tools and resources that allow them to thrive.
We’re sharing accomplishments and inspiration from 2012 in the words of our expert staff.
As farm couples age, typically women live longer than men. After they become widows, women are frequently in charge of a very valuable asset—meaning the farmland—and they may or may not have been engaged in dealing with government programs or some of the institutions that impact the farmland itself. I thought there’s an opportunity here, a niche for American Farmland Trust to play in helping educate and empower women who own or control the land. Through conversations with my AFT colleague, Anne Sorensen, I found that we both had that same thinking in common. So we are making the case those women landowners have a lot of influence on who rents the land and whether or not conservation will be applied to the land.
Read more from Midwest Director Mike Baise
Precision Agriculture and Water
of our work in the Ohio River Basin, American Farmland Trust recently launched
a two-year project to develop and refine the first credit estimator for precision agriculture variable rate technology (VRT) practices in water quality trading programs. Data from universities, John
Deere and Trimble will compare crop uptake budgets with applied nutrients (phosphorus
and nitrogen) and use modeling at the farm-field level with edge-of-field
monitors to account for excess nutrients. We will test and refine the resulting
protocol with farmers and Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky state regulatory
agencies. The work is supported by a USDA Natural Resource Conservation
Services Conservation Innovation Grant, The Mosaic Foundation and collaborating partners.
Full Speed Ahead for Interstate
Water Quality Trading
Trust met with project partners in Columbus, Ohio, on November 13 to
design an online registry for the Ohio River Basin Water Quality Trading
Market; review our modeling, credit calculation tools and in-stream
procedures; and discuss our initial farmer engagements and contracts.
the next two years, the project will execute pilot trades with farmers
Kentucky and Indiana. These states signed the
nation’s first interstate pilot trading plan in August 2012 to allow power
plants and municipal wastewater treatment plants to purchase nutrient
reductions from farmers.
American Farmland Trust Midwest Director Appointed to State Conservation Committees
Mike Baise, Midwest Director for American Farmland Trust, joined the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service State Technical Committee in two states—Indiana and Illinois. Appointed by Jane Hardisty, Indiana State Conservationist, and Ivan Dozier, Illinois State Conservationist, respectively, these committees work across each state to implement conservation legislation and programs supported through the farm bill. “Mike is well-deserving of these appointments,” says Ann Sorensen, Director of Research at American Farmland Trust. “He brings a unique passion and enthusiastic vision to the work of American Farmland Trust throughout the Midwest. We are excited that he can bring these qualities to help shape critical conservation work in both Indiana and Illinois.”
Indiana Bill Will Help Ease Generational Transfer of Farmland
This spring, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels signed a bill to phase out the state inheritance tax. The plan will ease transfer of farmland and other farm assets by reducing associated inheritance taxes up until 2022, at which point the tax will be completely repealed. “With the repeal of the inheritance tax, Governor Daniels and Indiana legislatures have recognized one of the many struggles facing family farms,” says Baise. “I applaud their work to help keep farmland in production and empower the next generation of farmers.”
Midwest: The Year in Review
American Farmland Trust has fought to protect farmland in the Midwest for 27 years. Sometimes called America’s breadbasket, the Midwest is blessed with prime farmland soils that are the envy of the world, but we know we can’t afford to take these priceless resources for granted. That’s why we’ve been hard at work in this important region, and have made significant progress over the past year.
farmland protection in Harrison County
With more than 108,000 agricultural acres threatened by residential development, Harrison County worked for several years—with advice and encouragement from American Farmland Trust—to implement a local program to purchase conservation easements from willing landowners. A Farmland and Open Space Conservation Survey conducted by Purdue University confirmed residents support for the county's efforts and three programs are now helping to protect important farmland:
Sixth Oldest Farm in Indiana Is Protected
Since 1802, the Mont Clair Farm’s productive and well managed soils have produced a bounty of food and, at times, fiber. Mark and Rebecca Ewing permanently protected the 500-acre farm this spring through a conservation easement, and described why they chose to make the decision: “Our ancestors bore numerous hardships to keep Mont Clair Farm together for this length of time. We realized the profit gained from developing our land could buy nothing more valuable than our descendants owning and appreciating the farm as it has been for seven generations.”
2717 Blue Ridge Court
Bloomington, IN 47408
To learn more about agriculture in your state, visit the Indiana state profile page at the Farmland Information Center.