|You have the power to help save our farms and farmland. You can directly support Virginia farmers and farmers markets by taking these simple actions.
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) recently approved
seven Conservation Innovation Grant projects in Virginia totaling more
than $406,000. A project led by American
Farmland Trust will deal with improving soil health on Virginia
farmland to increase productivity, profitability and the positive
impact of agriculture. The grants, which are funded
through the Farm Bill’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program, assist
working with farmers who wish to develop and test new conservation
and approaches. “Conservation Innovation Grants help
spur creativity and problem-solving on our nation’s farms, ranches and
forests,” said Jack Bricker, state conservationist for NRCS in Virginia.
are glad that these groups can help in USDA’s efforts to advance
and to protect our natural resources.”
Director Jim Baird will present on Preserving
Farmland, Cultivating Farmers: Government Programs and Roles for Non-Profits in
Agricultural Sustainability at the 2013 Committee on the Stewardship of
Creation’s conference. This year’s conference, focused on The Challenge of Food Sustainability,
will be looking at
preservation of forests and farmland, and will also give more
express attention to the health of rivers and the Chesapeake Bay,
and fisheries. Baird’s presentation will
consider how the American Farmland Trust and other farmland conservation
organizations contribute as advocates and supporters to the reach and
effectiveness of government programs supporting farmland preservation
farming transitions. Find
out more and register for the conference in Richmond, Virginia.
Representatives 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.
How is farmland stacking up to development in efforts to
clean the Chesapeake Bay? Mid-Atlantic Director Jim Baird has been working with
partners in the region to help answer this question and recently presented their findings at the Chesapeake
Bay Watershed Forum. With widespread perceptions of farms as the primary
water quality problem in the Bay area, many think that smart-design housing might
actually be a preferable land use. “Not necessarily,” says Baird. “We have found that,
thanks to growth in conservation practices spurred by the Bay Restoration Plan,
farmland actually puts about 15 percent less nitrogen into the Bay watershed
per acre than developed land.” Move ahead to a 2025 scenario. Should all of the
conservation measures on farms and developed lands be implemented, farmland is
projected to release 28 percent less nitrogen than developed land. Adds Baird,
“These findings are important both to restore Chesapeake Bay health and to maintain the
farms that provide our food and support our local economy.”
Guest agricultural blogger Dana Gochenour reflects on a late summer adventure through Virginia cornfields as a crop advisor for the BMP Challenge. Her mission: to collect samples of leaves from the base of growing ears of corn to check up on the health of plants in sample fields testing conservation practices. This information is just one of many pieces she uses to help inform farmers about how to meet the double bottom line of protecting the quality of water surrounding their farm while getting the most corn at the least cost. Read more about Dana’s trip through the “corn maze.”
The 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 theMid-Atlantic. Read more about our work across the region.
Our Mid-Atlantic Director, Jim Baird, recently paid a visit to a Virginia farmer in hopes of hooking the “slippery fish” of fertilizer. The visit revealed how a simple soil test and involvement in conservation programs, like the BMP Challenge, can not only help protect our drinking water but also support a farm’s bottom line and help keep farmers on the land.
In the current lawmaking session, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has proposed legislation and initiatives to preserve working farm and forest lands that will accomplish his goal to protect 400,000 acres of open space during his four-year term. To help achieve this objective, Gov. McDonnell is proposing initiatives that would:
- Add an additional $400,000 to purchase of development rights programs.
- Create two new state-level positions to help family farms and the environment by assisting farmers to maintain their commercial viability while meeting water quality requirements from the state and throughout the Chesapeake Bay region.
- Develop a “non-reverting” Farmland Preservation Fund in which unspent dollars would not have to be returned to the Virginia treasury’s general fund.
This legislative push comes on the heels of Gov. McDonnell’s announcement of $100,000 in grants dedicated to farmland protection in the state. These initiatives, developed along with the state’s Secretary of Agriculture Todd Haymore and Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Matthew Lohr, have set the tone for 2011 to improve Virginia’s land conservation and farmland protection efforts. Contact your state officials and thank them for representing the interests of Virginia’s working lands.
Virginia is home to two winners of our 2010 “America’s Favorite Farmers Markets” contest. Avid supporters voted the King George and Falls Church Farmers Markets to the top! Click the links below to learn more about these markets and the integral role they play in their communities.
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 draft reports 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.
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