Conservation Via the Farm Bill
A report from the Soil and Water Conservation Society identifies opportunities for America to fully realize the potential for conservation in the 2002 Farm Bill. Realizing the Promise of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act suggests ways to enhance the performance of farm conservation programs and calls on policymakers to fully fund them. The report's recommendation to ramp up the Conservation Security Program "quickly and thoughtfully" supports the emerging consensus that future farm policy should shift toward a greater emphasis on stewardship. The Wall Street Journal recently expressed support for the CSP's potential to improve farm policy. "But if we are going to pay farmers, paying them to make the air and water we all share cleaner seems smart," concluded reporter David Wessel in a July 22 story.
The Need to Plan for Agriculture Grows
Planners increasingly recognize the need to include strategies to protect agricultural land and make farming economically and environmentally sustainable into their land use plans. Particularly in urban edge and rural communities, more planners understand that working agricultural land is as important as transportation infrastructure, business/commercial development and public open space. AFT President Ralph Grossi spoke about agriculture's evolving value to communities and its important place in land use planning efforts at the American Planning Association's 2004 conference (listen to an excerpt). AFT will provide the latest information on planning for agriculture at the upcoming Midwest planning conference, Planning at the Crossroads.
Nominations Sought for Steward of the Land Award
Do you know a farmer or rancher fit to be our next Steward of the Land? Each year, AFT presents the $10,000 prize to the farming family who best exemplifies leadership in protecting farmland and caring for the environment. This spring, the 2004 prize went to Ben Williamson of Darlington, South Carolina. Leading with innovations on his own farm, Williamson championed the protection of natural resources in his community and across the state.
Please help us find our next winner by nominating a farmer or rancher. There are two easy ways: Download materials from our Web site or call (202) 331-7300 ext. 3044 to request a nomination kit. The deadline to submit nominations for the 2005 award is Monday, November 1, 2004.
Land Protection Sways with Smart Growth Tides
From coast to coast, the politics of smart growth are creating new opportunities and challenges for land conservation advocates. In California, an "anti-dumb growth" strategy commissioned by Governor Schwarzenegger will likely focus on providing affordable housing. But if the location and scope of new housing is not considered carefully, it could exacerbate farmland loss. In Oregon, a deceptive measure on the November ballot could roll back the state's strong growth management rules, unleashing a tidal wave of sprawl on to agricultural lands.
In Massachusetts, the Romney Administration plans to begin earmarking half of the state's Agricultural Preservation Restriction program funds for communities that have adopted "state-approved smart growth criteria." While a good idea in theory, farmland protection advocates worry that the criteria favor larger suburban communities over rural communities with important agricultural resources.
Northeast State Departments of Agriculture Weigh In on Federal FRPP
Citing frustration over the federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program's (FRPP) duplicative administrative requirements and conflicts with state program policies, the Northeastern Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NEASDA) urged USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to consider certifying state purchase of development rights programs. In a letter to NRCS, NEASDA President Charles Kuperus noted that Northeast states have "significant experience and history in conservation easement acquisitions," and suggested that NRCS develop a state certification process and defer to certified states' expertise regarding appropriate rules and requirements for FRPP administration.
News Briefs from Around the Country
In Michigan, a unique collaboration between two counties has given birth to a new farmland protection program. Virginia's Office of Farmland Preservation is distributing guidelines for local governments to set up purchase of development rights programs.The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets released a model agricultural conservation easement designed to aid local governments and land trusts in purchasing development rights on farmland.
The North Carolina Smart Growth Alliance recently released Healthy Rural Communities: A Resource and Action Guide for North Carolina.