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“New England has great potential to improve its food and energy security, reduce its carbon footprint, and sustain its family farms by increasing production and consumption of regional food, farm and forest products."

— Cris Coffin New England Director, American Farmland Trust

 
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Our Work in New England

New England MapAmerican Farmland Trust's New England office, based in Northampton, Massachusetts, works to protect farmland, promote sound farming practices, and keep farmers on the land.

New England ’s four million acres of farmland is just 10 percent of our land base, but integral to our environment, our economy and our public health. Yet sadly, 12 percent of the region’s prime farmland was developed in just the 25 year period from 1982 to 2007. Some states saw significantly higher losses: Rhode Island lost 22 percent of its farmland and Massachusetts lost 18 percent. From 2002-2007, more than 85,000 acres of New England ’s most productive farmland have disappeared to sprawling development.

 

 

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What's HAPPENING NOW

New England Food Policy Project: Wednesday Webinar Series

Updated 9/11/2014

Join us this fall for our continuing Wednesday webinar series focused on state and federal policies that could improve our region’s food system.  The webinars explore in greater detail the policies and policy options described in our report, New England Food Policy: Building a Sustainable Food System.

 

To register for the webinars below, click on the webinar title and you will be routed to the registration page. 

New Report: New England Food Policy: Building a Sustainable Food System

Updated 9/11/2014

A new report authored by American Farmland Trust, Conservation Law Foundation and Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group analyzes policies to strengthen and expand New England’s food system. The report, New England Food Policy: Building a Sustainable Food System, is intended to guide citizens, organizations, coalitions, agencies and policymakers in identifying supportive policies and areas where new policies may be needed to help expand New England’s  food production, strengthen its agricultural economy and food supply chains, and enhance multistate cooperation.

Click here for more information and to download the, New England Food Policy: Building a Sustainable Food System, report.

 

Click here to view the New England Food Policy Webinars

 

Agreement on APR Legislation Improves Chances For New Farmland Protection Funding in Massachusetts Environmental Bond

Posted 4/22/2014

A recent agreement on legislative changes to the Agricultural Preservation Restriction Program (APR) has helped improve changes of passage of an Environmental Bond Bill with $30 million for the APR program. “Without this agreement, the APR funding was at significant risk,” explains American Farmland Trust New England Director Cris Coffin. “These legislative changes, which we expect will be added to the Environmental Bond Bill, are important improvements to the program.  They also enable Massachusetts Farm Bureau to support the Environmental Bond and APR funding.”

American Farmland Trust helped negotiate the agreement, which include giving the state Agricultural Lands Preservation Committee the authority to approve all program regulations and hear appeals from APR landowners who have been denied certificates of approvals or special permits. The language is likely to be added to the Environmental Bond as it moves through the House. American Farmland Trust applauds the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture for its inclusion in the bond of $30 million in APR funding and appreciates the role Senator Marc Pacheco and Representative Anne Gobi played in the legislative negotiations.   

 

Learn More About the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)

Man carrying VegetablesTo help stakeholders understand the potential impact of the FSMA, American Farmland Trust recently joined the Conservation Law Foundation, Food Solutions New England, Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation, New England Farmers Union, Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group, Rhode Island Division of Agriculture, UMass Extension, and University of Rhode Island in hosting a webinar for New England food producers, buyers, and those working toward a resilient New England food system.  The webinar focused on two rules that have recently been released by the Food and Drug Administration—the Standards for the Growing, Packing, Harvesting and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption (the “produce” rule), which addresses farm practices, and the Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food (the “preventive controls” rule), which governs facilities that manufacture, process, pack or hold food. 

 

 

New England Convening Explores Challenges and Opportunities Around Farmland Loss, Access and Restoration

Crops in field on small New England farmWhere is New England’s best farmland and what are the threats to it? How can state governments help reduce farmland loss? How can farmland be made more available and affordable to both established and beginning farmers? These and other questions were the subject of a recent regional convening hosted by American Farmland Trust and Land For Good in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The meeting brought together more than 80 federal and state agency staff, Extension personnel, foundation officers, and representatives of conservation and farm organizations. “We are very grateful to all six state Chief Agricultural Officers and six (USDA-NRCS) State Conservationists for their collaboration with us on this convening,” said Cris Coffin, American Farmland Trust’s New England Director. “It was a chance not just for information sharing, but to think strategically about ways we can work as a region to reduce farmland conversion, increase permanent protection, expand access and keep farmland in farming, especially in light of a changing climate.”

More information about the convening, including presentations and maps

States, Land Trusts in New England Frustrated with Implementation of Federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program

Protected farm in Pleasant Valley, VermontThe federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) has been an enormously important source of matching funds for state and local farmland protection efforts in New England, investing more than $200 million in permanent agricultural conservation easements around the region since 2002. Yet recent FRPP policy changes at USDA have confused and frustrated state farmland protection programs and their land trust partners, as has the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s initial roll-out of a certification process for experienced state and local farmland protection partners. “New England has some of the oldest and most respected state Purchase of Agriculture Conservation Easement (PACE) programs in the country—yet not a single program was certified,” said Cris Coffin, American Farmland Trust's New England Director.

These policy changes and certification roll-out have some of the region’s strongest FRPP advocates, including U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), U.S. Representative Joe Courtney (D-CT) and Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, seeking answers and solutions. Senator Leahy and Representative Courtney are championing language in the current Farm Bill reauthorization directing NRCS to revise the certification process for the new Agricultural Conservation Easement Program to give greater deference to experienced state and local FRPP partners.  And Governor Malloy, who has raised concerns about FRPP directly with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, is now seeking other governors to join with him in asking USDA to address these issues.  “We are extremely fortunate to have such strong allies in Congress and as Governors,” noted Coffin. 

Training Program for Professionals Working with Farmers and Farmland Owners

The transfer of farms to a new generation is one of the biggest challenges facing agriculture in the Northeast. American Farmland Trust and Land For Good are offering an exciting two-year training program for professionals working with farmers and farmland owners as they seek access to land and navigate the complexity of farm transfers. The Farmland Advisors program will offer participants from New York and New England the opportunity to join a network of agricultural and conservation professionals to learn about:

       · Farm transfer and succession planning
       · Financial, tax and legal issues in farm transfers
       · Land conservation as a farm transfer strategy
       · Farm linking and matching
       · Farmland leasing and other tenure options
       · Farmland restoration
       · Farmland affordability options

Learn more about the Farmland Advisors program

Farmland in the Connecticut River ValleyPlanning for Food and Agriculture in New England

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.

It’s been an exciting year, with so much interest and energy around the region on building New England’s food system infrastructure and fostering economic development in agriculture. And with each of the  New England states focused on planning for agriculture and the food system, it’s a great opportunity to think holistically about the region’s farmland base and what it will take not only to stem the loss of productive farmland, but to put additional land back into production to grow the region’s food production capacity.

Read more from New England Director Cris Coffin.

 

 

New England Milkshed Assessment

Farmer and son feed a dairy cow New England’s 1,700 milk-producing farms anchor the region’s agricultural land base and economy.  As New England strives to create a more resilient food system, grow profitable farm and food enterprises and retain its working farms and forests, new research from the New England Milkshed Assessment sheds light on the health and future of this keystone sector.


New England Milkshed Assessment


Northeast Farm Bill Agenda Highlights Importance of Working Lands Conservation

Red barn on farm in New EnglandThe Northeast is home to nearly 64 million people, with a population density five times the national average. According to a just-released Farm Bill Agenda for the Northeast [PDF], this urban influence has made federal conservation programs critically important in the region. The agenda includes four major priorities for the Conservation Title of the Farm Bill, including adequate conservation technical assistance; continued robust, mandatory funding for conservation programs focused on working farms and forests; appropriate conservation program flexibility to address state and local resource concerns and priorities; and continued funding for on-farm energy efficiency and renewable energy production. American Farmland Trust collaborated with the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG) and other state and regional farm, food and conservation organizations on developing the Agenda’s conservation priorities.


Work Across The region

Northeast Perspectives on the Farm Bill

A field of crops on a New England farmUnderstanding the farm bill reauthorization process is never easy, but this time around it will be more challenging than ever. American Farmland Trust, Wholesome Wave, Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group and New England Farmers Union hosted two webinars to help Northeast farm, food and conservation advocates better understand the 2012 Farm Bill reauthorization process.

Watch presentations on the Conservation Title and Enhancing Local and Regional Food Systems to learn what’s at stake for USDA programs that protect farmland, address environmental challenges, improve food access, and revitalize local and regional food systems in the Northeast.

New England Farm and Food Security Initiative            

 

Blue Ribbon Commission on Land Conservation 2010 Report to the Governors

 

A report finalized by the New England Governors’ Blue Ribbon Commission on Land Conservation [PDF] offers recommendations to keep the region’s farmland in farming. Recommendations include a New England Farm and Food Security Initiative to identify and address barriers and opportunities to increase production and consumption of New England-grown farm and food products, and protect the region’s agricultural lands. Commission members briefed the New England governors on the recommendations, and American Farmland Trust is working with the Commission and the six state Departments of Agriculture to move these valuable recommendations forward.

Cris Coffin, New England Director for American Farmland Trust, has worked with the Commission on Land Conservation and notes the importance of its recommendations:

 

 

 

 

“New England has great potential to improve its food and energy security, reduce its carbon footprint, and sustain its family farms by increasing production and consumption of regional food, farm and forest products. But there are a host of barriers—from lack of food processing and distribution capacity, high energy and other farm input costs, the continued loss of farmland, to a lack of access for many citizens to nutritious and affordable food. Eliminating some of these barriers will require multi-state initiatives or federal policy changes and investments, which is why the regional collaboration envisioned through the New England Farm and Food Security Initiative and the commission’s other four initiatives is so vital.” 

American Farmland Trust will continue to work with the Commission on Land Conservation and the six state Departments of Agriculture to move the agricultural recommendations forward. Governor John Baldacci of Maine, who chairs the New England Governors Commission, has said of the commission’s report:

 

 

“This is the most ambitious land conservation effort that has ever been put forward for all New England. For more than a century, New England has been a national leader in maintaining and renewing the human benefits of land conservation. These carefully coordinated initiatives are timely and necessary if we are to pass these benefits along to future generations of New England citizens.”

Supporting New England’s Dairy Farms

Cows on a Dairy FarmNew England’s dairy farms are the anchor tenants of the region’s agricultural land base, managing over 50% of the cropland in 5 of the region’s 6 states and stewarding thousands more acres of woodlands, wetlands and pasture.  The region’s 2,100 dairy farms are vital to the region’s economy, generating more than $13,000 per cow annually in direct economic activity. Yet, these farms continue to struggle with milk prices that often do not cover their costs of production. 

Working in partnership with Tufts University's Agriculture, Food and Environment program, we have begun a comprehensive regional supply chain analysis to map the flow of milk and other dairy products through the New England region, helping consumers understand where their milk is coming from and how they can support the region's diary farms and farmland. We also will identify new market opportunities for regional dairy producers such as schools, restaurants and institutions, farmers markets and community supported farms, convenience stores and bodegas, and USDA feeding programs, as well as new policy options to pursue through the New England Farm and Food Security Initiative.

 

 

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