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Welcome to American Farmland Trust's E-news.  Every month, we'll feature news, policies and research that help you protect farm and ranchland, plan for growth with agriculture in mind and keep the land healthy. By working together at this new frontier of conservation, we can save the land that sustains us! 

USDA Announces Watersheds, Enrollment Categories for the Conservation Security Program
The Conservation Security Program (CSP) is a new “green payments” program that pays farmers and ranchers to manage working lands for environmental benefits. It is unique among USDA’s conservation programs, because it sets sustainable farming goals and then allows farmers flexibility in how they meet them.  In May, USDA announced enrollment categories for fiscal year 2004 and the process for determining priority watersheds that will be used for this year’s sign-up. USDA also released a list of watersheds in which it will fund CSP contracts this year.

Originally crafted as an entitlement program available to all eligible farmers and ranchers, funding for CSP was capped at $41 million in fiscal year 2004. This led USDA to propose restricting eligibility to priority watersheds, creating additional enrollment requirements and reducing program payments in the proposed rule. USDA has indicated that it will publish a final CSP rule this summer and seek comments. Read AFT’s comments on the proposed CSP rule and stay tuned for more updates this summer.

Studies Show that Saving Farmland is a Wise Community Investment
Recent studies in two Ohio counties give sound financial reasons for protecting farmland. For every $1 in revenue generated by residential development in Knox County, Ohio, the first study found that $1.05 was required in public services, such as schools, fire protection and road maintenance. On the other hand, farms and open lands generated more than three times as much revenue as the county spent on them in public services (only $.29 required in services for every $1 of revenue). Since the study came out, Knox County has set aside $100,000 for farmland preservation, making it one of the only counties in Ohio that has used general revenue funds for farmland protection.

Results were similar for the second study in Clark County and for other Cost of Community Services (COCS) studies around the country. In Clark County, the Tecumseh Land Preservation Association is working with the county-sponsored Farmland Preservation Working Group to update the 1999 Farmland Preservation Plan. There, the fiscal analysis is being used as a public education tool to make the case for farmland preservation to both citizens and county officials.  The Working Group hopes to secure funding for a local purchase of agricultural conservation easements program. Experience shows that COCS studies help build community-wide support for farmland protection.

Raise a Glass to Environmentally and Economically Sustainable Agriculture
California’s wine industry is leading the way in agriculture that is environmentally friendly as well as profitable. Last fall, AFT awarded the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance a grant to measure progress in the adoption of integrated pest management (IPM) methods. IPM is a sustainable approach to pest control designed to prevent, avoid or suppress weeds, insects and crop diseases, while reducing the use of pesticides. The grant helps support new IPM workshops, data collection to measure impacts and the production of the first California Wine Community Sustainability Report. These activities will facilitate the adoption of IPM in all major California winegrape-growing regions.

Mapping Ranchlands at Risk
An AFT mapping study is raising awareness of threats to ranchlands in six western states. Strategic Ranchlands at Risk in the Rocky Mountain West identifies more than 24 million acres imperiled by low-density development. The maps overlay data about public land, wildlife habitat, water supplies and vegetation to help communities target land for protection. Recent articles featuring the findings have run in media outlets across the West.

Where can I get information on the tools for saving farm and ranchland?
The experts at the Farmland Information Center (FIC) have the answers you need.
Recently expanded this winter, the FIC maintains an ever-growing collection of state laws, reports and other literature relating to farmland protection. The FIC, a partnership between AFT and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, is available online at www.farmlandinfo.org and offers free technical assistance via phone at 800-370-4879.

 


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