In this issue, we chart the progress of North Carolina's Voluntary Agriculture Districts, feature AFT's upcoming "Farming on the Edge" conference; look at new state laws that address environmental concerns stemming from agriculture; give a news update from Washington, DC; introduce a crop insurance program that's helping farmers reduce their use of fertilizer and brief you on other news from around the country. Thanks for helping to save the land that sustains us!
Report Chronicles NC's Growing Network of Voluntary Agriculture Districts
One of the primary tools for farmland protection advocates in North Carolina is a growing network of Voluntary Agricultural District (VAD) programs. A new AFT report charts the progress of statewide VAD programs and highlights innovative VAD activities in counties across the state. Drawing on lessons learned at two statewide VAD workshops in 2003, North Carolina Voluntary Agricultural Districts: A Progress Report aims to strengthen cooperation between VAD programs as they seek local and statewide support in slowing the loss of productive agricultural land. Learn more about how AFT can help you create an agricultural districts program and other farmland protection techniques.
Burley, Bourbon & Bluegrass Tour Kicks Off AFT's National Conference
Americans treasure our working landscape-the farms, forests and ranches that sustain us. Yet economic, environmental and land use conflicts increasingly challenge the future of these lands. "Farming on the Edge: Meeting the Challenge," AFT's third national conference, will bring together a diverse group to address these issues in Lexington, Kentucky, November 15-17, 2004. The conference kicks off with a "Burley, Bourbon & Bluegrass" bus tour, which offers an exceptional view of the area's distinctive agricultural landscape, including a stop at Brown-Forman's Woodford Reserve Distillery. More than 30 workshop sessions, panel discussions and a celebratory banquet fill the rest of the conference schedule. Register by September 15 and receive our special early-bird discount.
New Farm Management Laws Aim to Enhance Water Quality
Pennsylvania and Vermont are leading efforts to proactively address environmental concerns stemming from agriculture. In August, Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell unveiled the Agriculture, Communities and Rural Environment (ACRE) initiative, which aims to stimulate major nutrient reductions from the agricultural sector by expanding nutrient management activities and targeting agriculturally impaired streams.
Vermont is relying on new state money and federal partnerships to help ease the burden on farmers as it strives to reduce runoff into the Lake Champlain watershed. The agricultural component of Governor Jim Douglas's Clean and Clear initiative involves both regulating certain agricultural operations and increasing state funds for programs that help farmers implement the management practices called for in the regulations. Vermont will draw on two federal farm conservation programs--the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program--to help accomplish its clean water goals.
Comments Due on the Conservation Security Program and Other News from the Hill
Last month, USDA Secretary Ann Veneman announced that nearly 2,200 farmers and ranchers were selected as the first participants in the Conservation Security Program (CSP). The privately owned land impacted by the fiscal year 2004 sign-up covers nearly 1.9 million acres in 18 watersheds. The USDA expects to fully use the $41 million provided by Congress to fund the program this fiscal year. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service will be accepting comments on the interim final rule for the CSP until September 20, 2004. This is the public's opportunity to comment on all aspects of the rule, including the priority watershed selection process and the system of enrollment categories released by NRCS last May.
In other news from Washington, DC, the House agriculture appropriations bill is complete, but there has been little movement on a Senate version. Representative Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) proved her dedication to helping direct market producers by introducing the Farmers' Markets Infrastructure Assistance Act of 2004. If passed, the legislation would provide financial assistance for the construction, improvement, and rehabilitation of farmers' markets through cost share and grants.
Midwest Farmers Reduce Fertilizer Use, Maintain Crop Yields and Save $
AFT's Agricultural Conservation Innovation Center is helping farmers maintain successful crop yields and protect water supplies by reducing nitrogen fertilizer use an average of 24 percent through a risk-management crop insurance program. Participating farmers like Burley Hall, who grows corn on 2100 acres in Ohio, are enthusiastic about saving money while reducing the amount of nitrogen that can flow into waterways and "watching out for the environment." Brian Brandt oversees AFT's risk-management crop insurance program that is currently insuring crops for farmers who agree to use a lesser amount of nitrogen fertilizer in exchange for yield guarantees.
News Briefs from Around the Country
The Vermont Housing and Conservation Board is celebrating the conservation of a farm today, as well as the receipt of $3.1 million in federal Farm and Ranchland Protection Program funds.Protected farmland in Snohomish County, Washington will no longer be used as ball fields, thanks to stepped up local enforcement of the state's Growth Management Act. Delaware's legislature amended agricultural district housing rules to allow any person to occupy permitted residential units, but simultaneously reduced the total number of potential housing units per farm. The state also exempted nutrient management structures from property taxes. A new Hawaii law prohibits easements from limiting agricultural activities on state-classified agricultural land. New York's Senate and Assembly approved an FY 2004/2005 budget with significant gains for agricultural conservation programs. AFT submitted a series of recommendations to the Ohio House Subcommittee on Growth and Land Use this summer on preserving the state's farmland. A new fact sheet on Land Evaluation and Site Assessment is available from the Farmland Information Center.
Finally, please take the time to nominate a farmer for our $10,000 Steward of the Land Award.