Voters Still Strong on Land Conservation
Voters approved 66 percent of state and local ballot measures that included funding for farm and ranch land protection in November's elections. Although the number is down from 2000, it still demonstrates continued, strong support for land conservation throughout the country.
$78M Available for Protection Farms and Ranches in 2005
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced that an initial allocation of $78 million in matching funds is available through the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) for farmers and ranchers to permanently protect their land. Conservation leaders expressed disappointment that funding levels for FRPP, as well as for all conservation programs, in the current omnibus spending bill are well below levels authorized in the 2002 Farm Bill. “The continued under funding of conservation programs means fewer farms protected, fewer wetlands, less habitat and dirtier water," said AFT President Ralph Grossi. One bright spot is the recent bill approved by Congress that will block the USDA from diverting funds from four voluntary conservation programs to provide technical assistance for other programs.
Department of Defense: New Kids on the Farmland Protection Block
What do farms, ranches and military bases have in common? Increasingly, the answer is sprawl. With more than 50 percent of Americans now living in the suburbs, developers are building subdivisions near and adjacent to military installations that were established to be far from public view. Concerned about how incompatible land use near bases hampers military testing and training, DoD is partnering with state and local agencies and private conservation organizations to find "win-win" solutions to protect working lands and create compatible land use buffers around their bases.
Growing Momentum for Farmland Protection in Kentucky
AFT's national conference "Farming on the Edge: Meeting the Challenge" last month in Lexington highlighted Kentucky’s farmland protection efforts. In one session, AFT and local partners unveiled the Kentucky Agricultural Landowners Guide to Conservation and Profitability, an overview of the alternatives available to landowners who want to protect their land and improve its productivity. The Lexington-Fayette farmland protection program—the first Agricultural Conservation Easement program by a local government in Kentucky—was recognized for its excellence and is this year's gold winner of the national James C. Howland Award for Municipal Enrichment.
Americans Want Shorter Commutes and Walkable Neighborhoods
The 2004 Smart Growth America/National Association of Realtors Poll found 61 percent of homebuyers want communities with a mix of nearby housing, shopping and walking opportunities, as well as the option of riding transit to work. The poll also showed that Americans want government and business to invest in existing communities before putting resources into newer communities—often built on former farmland—that are father out from cities and older suburbs.
News Briefs from Around the Country
Voters in Oregon passed Measure 37 that requires governments to pay property owners for value lost to development restrictions or drop the restrictions—setting a dangerous precedent.
In November, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, acting on behalf of the state's Department of Agriculture, was granted an emergency injunction to prevent the construction of a golf course on farmland protected through the state's Farmland Preservation Program.
Henderson County is North Carolina's first county to include a separate agricultural component in their Henderson County 2020 Comprehensive Land Use Plan.
Local farmers in Missouri, New York and Oregon were recently recognized by the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program for not only being profitable, but also for valuing the environment and their communities.
The Hudson Valley Agricultural Partnership (HVAP), a group of organizations including AFT that works to ensure a future for Hudson Valley agriculture, is sponsoring "Agriculture in the Hudson Valley: Innovations" at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York on January 13, 2005.
The 4th Annual New Partners for Smart Growth conference is January 27-29, 2005 in Miami Beach, Florida. Rural issues will be addressed in several workshops, including "Planning for Agriculture" with AFT Southeast Director Gerry Cohn.