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Snapshot of Pennsylvania Agriculture

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

"Creating a healthy, naturally balanced environment is good for us and for our productivity and profitability. And we think it's the right thing."
-Jim Crawford, Pennsylvania Farmer
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Did you know that the state of Pennsylvania has been losing more than 40 acres of farmland per day? You have the power to help save our farms and farmland. You can directly support Pennsylvania farmers and farmers markets by taking these simple actions.
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Project Updates and News

American Farmland Trust Honors Pennsylvania Farmer with Local Hero Award

Andrew McElwaine delivers Pennsylvania Farmland Hero AwardFranklin County farmer John Koons, Sr., was honored on October 10 with a Local Hero Award from American Farmland Trust and the Pennsylvania Farmland Preservation Association for his more than 60 years of dedication to his dairy farm, farmland preservation and land conservation. The award was presented by Andrew McElwaine, American Farmland Trust president and CEO, during a special celebration marking the 25th anniversary of Pennsylvania’s Farmland Preservation Program. "John and Doris Koons and their family represent the rock on which agriculture in the United State is built,” said McElwaine.  “Through his leadership, John Koons has set an example for other farmers to follow in preserving farmland, conserving soil and land and protecting Pennsylvania’s water resources.

Let Chesapeake Bay Officials Know You Support Farmland Protection

Maryland farm along the water in the fallRepresentatives from Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia just released an abridged version of a new Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement—the fourth since 1983 and newest since 2000—outlining goals to protect and restore the Bay. The voluntary agreement helps set the course for how states work to meet the regulations for Total Daily Maximum Load (TMDL) set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This latest version presents an opportunity to bring farmland protection into the discussion. “The TMDL only deals with water quality and neglects land conservation,” explains Jim Baird, Mid-Atlantic Director for American Farmland Trust. “It may even create unintended incentives to build on farmland. We need to be sure that doesn’t happen.” Baird adds that the agreement could establish more common ground. For the first time, Governors from all states in the watershed would be signatories with the addition of New York, West Virginia and Delaware, sending the message that all states in the watershed can be part of the solution. Give your input from now until August 15

Dairy farm in winterPreserving Clean Water and Viable Farms in the Mid-Atlantic

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.

While all the reasons we have identified through the years for why farmland is important are all still true, we also have this heightened concern about water quality. We need to understand what role farmland and farmers play in this realm and we articulate that to people. They need to understand how much agriculture is part of the solution for this issue, too. And so this last year I’ve been working on making the case that farmland is essential for water quality so we can make it part of the policy solution.

Read more from Mid-Atlantic Director Jim Baird

Berks County, Pa. Shares Rich Agricultural and Community Connection

Mid-Atlantic-corn-and-hay-field.jpgA series recently featured in the Reading Eagle highlights the shared commitment among farmers and other community members to preserve farmland in Berks County. As stories like those of the BrownStricker, and Wagner families demonstrate, farmland protection has been critical to food production and jobs in the state. In 1987, Pennsylvania voters approved $100 million for a first of its kind farmland protection program that American Farmland Trust helped to design and promote. It has become the most successful program of its kind in the nation, having protected nearly half a million acres on more than 4,000 family farms in 57 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. As previously reported, the program faced the elimination of state funding earlier this year under Governor Corbett’s 2012-2013 proposed budget. According to American Farmland Trust's Mid-Atlantic Director Jim Baird, “it was great reporting, like these stories from the Eagle, from all over the state, combined with a massive citizen’s response to our ‘Coalition to Save Farms’ that restored the funding and enabled the Commonwealth to show the nation the importance of ensuring that we all have farms in our future.”

Grassroots Efforts Succeed in Saving Pennsylvania’s Farmland Funding

WIP.jpgEarlier this year, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett set a course to permanently eliminate farmland protection funds in the state, recommending in his 2012-13 state budget proposal to divert these dollars to the state’s General Fund. But thanks to the outpouring of support for Pennsylvania’s nationally renowned program, Governor Corbett signed a final state budget that included $20.49 million dedicated for farmland preservation. To defend this critical funding, American Farmland Trust joined numerous groups in the Save Our Farms Coalition to get the word out to citizens in rural and urban areas who have voted to support this crucial effort for decades. “This was a textbook case for grassroots democracy in action. The response to our appeals was tremendous, and your elected leaders heard you loud and clear,” says Jim Baird, Mid-Atlantic Director at American Farmland Trust.

Coalition to Save Farms Seeks to Maintain Pennsylvania Farmland Protection Funds

Sprawl encroaching on Lancaster, Pennsylvania farmlandConservation groups—including American Farmland Trust— concerned about Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett’s proposed budget cuts to farmland preservation have pulled together to form the Coalition to Save Farms. The state’s award winning farmland preservation program is funded through a dedicated tax on the sale of cigarettes. The Governor wants to permanently redirect this funding to the general fund. With no source of funds to replace the cigarette tax, the program will not survive, as former Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding recently described. “Now is the time for Pennsylvanians to let their elected officials know that they support continued dedicated state funding for farmland preservation, and that the issue is important to their economic well-being and cultural heritage,” explains Jim Baird, Mid-Atlantic Director at American Farmland Trust. Find out more about ways you can help the Coalition defend farmland protection funding.

Farms Improving Water Quality in the Chesapeake Bay: A NePennsylvania farm pondw Study

For a farmer, like any business owner or operator, the business of agricultureholds many risks. Addressing how this risk matches up to the adoption of on-farm conservation practices was the topic of a recent feasibility study we completed in collaboration with AgFlex, Inc. and Kieser and Associates. The study explored the conservation practice adoption process of farmers in Pennsylvania and will help our work in addressing farm conservation issues across the country.


A Year of Progress in the Mid-Atlantic

Farm fields and barns in MidatlanticThe rich agricultural diversity of the Mid-Atlantic offers an annual opportunity to celebrate the remarkable gifts of the land. Even in a year full of challenges that threatened its bounty—including inclement weather and state budgets concerns—work to protect farmland and safeguard clean water sources has stretched from the steps of the capitol in Annapolis to farm fields from Pennsylvania to Virginia.

We are proud of the work of American Farmland Trust and our partners in the Mid-Atlantic. Read more about our work across the region.

Honoring a Farmland Preservation Hero

Zinnias and Dahlias in bloomWe recently honored Robert E. (Bob) Ambrose of Ridgeview Acres Farm with the Pennsylvania Farmland Preservation Local Heroes Award. The award recognizes his outstanding efforts to further the mission of the Pennsylvania Farmland Preservation Association by protecting the farms, natural resources and waters of the commonwealth. “Bob has shown the power of what one individual can do by sticking to a cause and steadily working on its issues,” says our Mid-Atlantic Director, Jim Baird. “He has served as the appointed chairman of the Westmoreland County Agricultural Land Preservation Board since 2001, which has preserved over 10,960 acres of productive farmland.” Bob and his wife run a 130-acre farm and are dedicated to protecting farmland from development.

Weather Is No Picnic for Farmers

Flooded-Field_Tractor.jpgRainy weather got you down? A spring that is wetter than normal can have an impact on our food beyond cancelling weekend picnic plans. In Pennsylvania, rain-soaked fields are delaying the planting process for corn this year which will ultimately impact the quality of milk reaching our tables. With farmers having a difficult time even getting on their fields, the wet weather also presents an obstacle for farmers interested in improving conservation practices through programs like our BMP Challenge.    

Our Work in Chesapeake Bay Continues

Bay region farmers have done a lot in the last 20 years to protect our water by making changes in how they farm and manage land.  For instance, they have reduced soil loss by 64 percent. However, adopting healthy farming practices is expensive and some high-cost investments don’t help their bottom-line.  Therefore, these barriers, in addition to inflexible regulation, cause some farmers to risk going out of business.  So, if we are asking farmers to protect their land and steward our water, we have to provide them with low-cost, flexible ways to do so. Read more about how we are helping farmers protect our water and stay on the land.

Honoring Local Hero Secretary Russell Redding

Local Hero Award CeremonyAmerican Farmland Trust Honored Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding with the bi-annual Pennsylvania Farmland Preservation Local Heroes Award for his profound dedication to Pennsylvania’s farms and agricultural industry for more than 20 years. Secretary Redding played a crucial role in founding the Adams County Preservation board, which has successfully protected 139 farms and 18,260 acres in its 20-year history. Along with the PA Farmland Preservation Association, we salute Redding for his outstanding efforts in furthering the mission of PFPA and his lifelong dedication to protecting the farms, natural resources and waters of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Farmers Improve Health of the Bay

Water Quality Trading Credit CeremonyWhat if three farmers could neutralize the water pollution caused by 418 suburban homes? That's exactly what the Lancaster County farmers enrolled in our BMP Challenge did last year when they prevented more than 5,800 pounds of fertilizer from flowing off their farms into the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation estimates that the average household in the watershed releases 14 pounds of nitrogen into the Chesapeake every year—so each farmer was able to offset the nitrogen pollution footprint of several cul-de-sacs! Plus, thanks to the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection's Nutrient Trading Program, the farmers’ efforts generated "certified nutrient trading credits" worth over $4,700, which our Mid-Atlantic Regional Director, Jim Baird, donated to the Lancaster Farmland Trust.

Chesapeake WaderCleaning Up the Chesapeake Bay: With the Right Tools, Agriculture can be a Key Player

In May 2009, President Barack Obama issued an executive order for a fresh look at the federal government’s role in Chesapeake Bay cleanup. The EPA and four cabinet-level departments recently released draft reports that estimate meeting water quality goals will require a 44 percent reduction of nitrogen entering the bay. Agriculture is one of the contributors to pollution in the bay, and reducing run-off while ensuring farms stay in business is no easy task. Fortunately there are some tools that that help farmers improve water quality, while allowing them to keep the farm business alive.

More Project Update

Focus on Pennsylvania

Black Cow Looking at CameraFood for Thought, Manure for Energy

In Pennsylvania, one man’s treasure is another’s cow manure. Mike Brubaker recently completed his first year's experiment with an anaerobic digester and discovered that his cow pies could make even more energy than he expected. Now Mike is selling the power and buying back what he needs for the dairy because the Brubakers get paid a premium price for their renewable power. “It is a remarkably efficient system,” says our Mid-Atlantic expert Jim Baird. “Cows produce manure, the manure produces electricity and the electricity becomes additional income. After the manure is processed for electricity, dried material becomes bedding for his cows and nutrient-rich water fertilizes the soil, which in turn helps grow premium dairy feed.”

More Focus on Pennsylvania

Federal Farm Policy and The farm bill

What is in the farm bill and why is it important? Find out what’s next for the farm bill and how we can make sure the legislation's promises are turned into programs on the ground.

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.

American Farmland Trust