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Grant Opportunity! For Wisconsin Growers to Reduce Pesticide Reliance

Snapshot of Wisconsin Agriculture

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

"By any measure, the Ultimate Land
Use Study Tour was very successful. It empowered almost 50 folks from Wisconsin
to begin to effectively address preservation of our working lands and agriculture economy."
-Rod Nilsestuen
Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection
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Every year, America loses 1.2 million acres of farmland, much of it our best and most productive farmland near where most Americans live. More than 25,000 acres of farmland per year are converted to development in Wisconsin.

What's New

Farmland Protection Celebration a Success in Jefferson County, Wisconsin

Jefferson County, Wisconsin farmland celebrationOn October 4, more than 200 people came together at the first Jefferson County Farmland Easement Celebration to learn about farmland preservation, tour the farm and enjoy conversation, good food and a live band. The event, held at Rod Lea and Ned and Sarah Healy's Oak View Farm, celebrated the more than 1,000 acres of farmland in the county that have been protected by conservation easements. The Healy/Lea farm was the first to gain a conservation easement as part of the Wisconsin Purchase of Agricultural Easement (PACE) Program. “Oak View Farms was the perfect setting for a celebration of Jefferson County’s strong farmland preservation plan,” noted Bill Berry, American Farmland Trust’s Wisconsin field representative. “The conservation easement helped ensure that the Healy family will have an opportunity to buy the farm and remain in business without pressures to convert it to other uses.”

American Farmland Trust Hires New Natural Resources Conservationist in Midwest

Jennfier FilipiakAmerican Farmland Trust has hired Jennifer Filipiak for the newly created Natural Resource Conservationist position in the Midwest region. The position is designed to support American Farmland Trust's activities in promoting conservation best management practices to farmers, increasing use of cover crops, developing environmental markets, encouraging farmland protection, and engaging women farmland owners in conservation. “Jen brings a wealth of experience to American Farmland Trust,” says Midwest Director Michael Baise. “She most recently led conservation programs promoting sustainable agriculture for the Illinois Stewardship Alliance. She has rich experience with The Nature Conservancy in Iowa managing watershed projects and supporting conservation with scientific planning expertise, project management and grant administration. We are lucky to have her on board.”  Filipiak holds a BS degree in biology and ecology from Northern Michigan University; and an MS in wildlife ecology from Southern Illinois-Carbondale. She begins her work with American Farmland Trust on October 21 and will be located in Bloomington, Illinois.

Wisconsin Hits Farmland Conservation Milestone, But Much Work Remains

Cows grazing on Wisconsin farmWith the recent addition of 236,800 acres of farmland to the state’s Ag Enterprise Area (AEA) program, Wisconsin is nearly three-quarters of the way to its goal of one million acres designated in enterprise areas. AEAs are part of the statewide farmland protection program and are intended to both encourage land conservation and to promote agricultural economic development. Despite this milestone, it is a small piece of the puzzle when it comes to preserving Wisconsin’s farmland. Bill Berry, Wisconsin Field Representative for American Farmland Trust, recently explained the rocky road of farmland protection programs and offered ways to further enhance these efforts. To protect Wisconsin farmland, concludes Berry, “We need to keep our eyes on the long-term goals that are so crucial to agriculture, conservation and the well-being of Wisconsin farm families and the state as a whole.”

Farmland Protection Fares Well in Wisconsin Budget

Red barn and corn fields in WisconsinDespite the fact that the state’s Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easement Program remains unfunded, farmland protection measures did relatively well in the recently completed Wisconsin budget.  Funding was restored for county land conservation departments, a critical link in local farmland protection and conservation efforts; Governor Walker vetoed an effort to transform the state’s farmland preservation tax credit into a grants program, while also fully funding the current tax credit program; and, funds for county farmland preservation planning grants were restored. 

Report Cites Role of Farmers and Communities to Protect Wisconsin Farmland

hay bales on a Wisconsin farmThe Wisconsin Department of Agriculture recently released its assessment of the Agricultural Enterprise Area (AEA) program, part of the state’s Working Lands Initiative passed in 2009 that aids in farmland protection at the local level. Designation of an AEA helps communities promote the future viability of existing agricultural and agriculture-related land use. According to the report, 22 areas have been designated to date, covering 510,000 acres, and represent a full spectrum of the agricultural profile in Wisconsin. Currently, 61,300 acres are currently enrolled by farmers who have signed an agreement committing their land to agriculture for a minimum of 15 years and in return receive a per-acre state income tax credit. “AEAs are critical to help local governments to further promote farmland preservation and agricultural economic development in their communities,” Notes Bob Wagner, Senior Policy and Program Advisor for American Farmland Trust. Since 2008, American Farmland Trust has actively developed and promoted Wisconsin farmland protection policies and programs. 

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!

Improving Water Quality in Midwestern Watersheds

Ankeny-LMW-110112.jpgOn October 31 and November 1, American Farmland Trust, Sand County Foundation, Iowa Soybean Association and The Nature Conservancy convened the third meeting of leaders involved with water quality projects in the Midwest. Forty-four leaders from Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana and Illinois exchanged information about their USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service Mississippi River Basin Initiative (MRBI) projects. The group discussed ways to engage farmers, target efforts and scale up pilot efforts into broader initiatives. Overall, they identified two trends for project success: completing a watershed plan with local farmers and using performance-based tools that provide feedback.

Agricultural Enterprise Areas Offer a “Win-Win” in Wisconsin

Red barn on Midwest farm at sunsetThe Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection is offering an opportunity for local communities to boost their farmland protection efforts. The Department is seeking petition submissions from communities across the state to be designated an “agricultural enterprise area.” Through this designation, the community can encourage continued agricultural production and investment in the farm economy, as well as open eligibility to farmers in the area to voluntarily protect their land. Explains Bob Wagner, Senior Policy and Program Advisor at American Farmland Trust, “Agricultural enterprise areas are a win-win for Wisconsin communities, supporting the state’s $59 billion agricultural economy and opening up valuable tools for farmers to preserve its underlying resource—the land.”  

Holstien Cows Resting Wisconsin Working Lands Update

In an important step forward in the implementation of the new Working Lands Initiative, farmers, town officials, planning commission members and others participated in six workshops held during the last week of October and the first week of November. Attendees left with valuable information on topics like changes to the existing Farmland Preservation Program, purchase of agricultural conservation easements; agricultural enterprise areas, and claiming farmland preservation tax credits. Download the workshop schedule and details [PDF].

Wisconsin Projects

Campaign for Wisconsin's Farm and Forest Land

On June 29, Gov. Jim Doyle signed into law a budget that included the Working Lands Initiative, a measure creating new land preservation tools for Wisconsin farmers. American Farmland Trust and its allies worked tirelessly to promote the initiative which Gov. Doyle stated “encourages the long-term preservation of Wisconsin’s fertile farmlands and supports commitments by farmers to manage their land in an environmentally friendly manner.” What’s more, the final version of the budget struck controversial changes to the tax code that would have weighed heavily on farmers and put working lands across the state in jeopardy.
Cow in Green Field

focus on Wisconsin

Healthy Grown PotatoesHot Potato, Green Potato?

Environmentally sustainable foods may be on the top of everyone’s mind these days-- but where do we find them and how do we know that they are eco-friendly? Look to the story of the Wisconsin's own Eco-potato for one answer. Healthy Grown, the eco-potato label, ensures food is grown environmentally consciously. More and more producers are willing to accept the risks and tackle the efforts inherent in changing to environmental farming to qualify for the many certification programs. Some certifications even go beyond regulating chemical use by encouraging farmland protection measures and requiring sales to local markets.

Read More Focus on Wisconsin

FederAl Farm Policy and The farm bill

What’s 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