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Diverse Leaders Seek Reform of U.S. Farm Policy
Diverse voices found consensus about the need and urgency for farm policy reform at the Farm Policy Leadership Summit held on December 2, 2004. The summit, hosted by American Farmland Trust and Environmental Defense and attended by 120 leaders and policy experts, featured speakers from eleven organizations. All agreed that a variety of factors provide an unprecedented opportunity for U.S. farm policy reform to benefit farmers, ranchers, consumer and taxpayers. Featured speaker Clayton Yeutter drew upon his experiences as secretary of agriculture and U.S. trade representative to make the case for reform.

More Funding for Conservation Programs
President Bush signed S. 2856, which prevents the USDA from using financial assistance funds from four mandatory conservation programs to help fund technical assistance for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP). Over the past two years, the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Grassland Reserve Program and Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program have "donated" or diverted more than $200 million in funds to the CRP and the WRP. The legislation dramatically increases the amount of financial assistance available to these four conservation programs by returning FY 2005 funds that were scheduled for diversion.

New Support for Fruit and Vegetable Growers
President Bush signed the Specialty Crop Competitiveness Act (SCCA), the nation's first major federal funding for fruits, nuts, vegetables, dried fruits and nursery products. SCCA is designed to increase consumption of these healthy crops and improve the competitiveness of U.S. specialty crop producers. Currently, 86 percent the nation's fruits and vegetables are produced on farms near urban areas. Limited access to local and world markets forces many of these specialty crop producers to sell their land to developers. By creating new markets and educating the public about the benefits of fresh produce, the act will keep more farmers on the land while improving the diets of consumers. 

Farm Transition Network Looks to the Future of North Carolina Agriculture
The North Carolina Farm Transition Network (NCFTN) has just completed its first year assisting aspiring and retiring farm families in farm business transition planning.  The NCFTN, the first program of its type in the Southeast, joins 19 other state programs in bringing together teams of experts from across the state to provide assistance in estate planning, business development, and a full range of services to farm families and advisors looking to the future of North Carolina's agricultural sector.

Training Spawns Expanded Income Opportunities for Local ProducersAFT's Niche Beef Project
The lack of information and step-by-step training for operating a branded beef business has prevented many western producers from diversifying into niche markets. After attending AFT's Niche Beef Production and Marketing in Colorado training conference, several producers were sufficiently armed to develop new businesses and local professionals were well prepared to help interested ranchers develop new marketing outlets for their cattle.  AFT's workshops and training for producers, agricultural professionals and communities continue to help keep local agriculture profitable and protect working lands.

Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program Request for Proposals
Reminder: Interested state, tribal and local governments and non-governmental organizations have until April 5, 2005 to submit applications to receive funds to permanently protect farmland through the Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program (FRPP). Proposals must be submitted to National Resources Conservation Service state offices. More information on the application process is available in the request for proposal announcement.

News Briefs from Around the Country
FRPP funds were used to permanently protect more than 10,000 acres in Gallatin County, Montana, allowing the farm to continue growing crops and raising livestock. 

In Ohio, the General Assembly passed House Bill 414, authorizing the creation of an Agricultural Security Area program, which allows landowners with holdings of 500 or more acres of contiguous farmland to voluntarily enroll for 10 years.

The town of Seneca in Ontario County, New York, passed a new zoning ordinance with significant provisions to protect farmland.

The New Hampshire Legislature's Farm Viability Committee filed its final report December 1, recommending increased support for Cooperative Extension, reduced property taxes on agricultural buildings and development of a farm viability program.

A survey of participants in the Kentucky purchase of agricultural conservation easements (PACE) program found that landowners are using their easement dollars to pay down debt, purchase farm equipment and improve farm buildings.

According to the recent Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind Poll, 85 percent of New Jersey residents feel farming should play a valuable role in the future of New Jersey, while 83 percent say it is appropriate for farmers to pay taxes at reduced rates on land under cultivation.

The Land Trust Alliance's National Land Trust Census found the total acreage conserved by local and regional land trusts has doubled from 4.7 million in 1998 to 9.4 million in 2003.


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