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AFT Helps Launch Campaign for State-level PDR Program in Texas
Working with Texas farm, ranch and conservation organizations, American Farmland Trust is launching a campaign to conserve our most productive and important farm and ranch lands and preserve Texas' unique heritage. Legislation has been introduced that will establish a statewide purchase of development rights program. Under this program, landowners voluntarily sell conservation easements, or the rights to develop the land, and preserve the long-term viability of agriculture in Texas.

Three out of Four Farmers Denied Conservation Funding, Yet Congress Calls for Cuts
Three out of four farmers and ranchers who apply for federal farm bill conservation programs are rejected, according to recent figures released by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The 2004 unfunded application data reveals that an additional $4.3 billion would have been needed to address the backlog of 150,901 farmers and ranchers whose applications to participate in federal conservation programs went unanswered. Meanwhile, congressional lawmakers in both houses recently called for reductions in agriculture spending in their respective versions of the 2006 budget resolution. AFT calls for fully funding conservation programs, which already have suffered significant cuts from levels authorized in the 2002 Farm Bill.

Farm-based Regional Economic Development Strategy Released for Maryland's Upper Eastern Shore
Economic development plans often overlook agriculture while focusing on other economic activities, even though agriculture is the main economic engine of the community. But some regions and communities understand the value of their agricultural industries and are developing plans to protect and expand farming, ranching and forestry as drivers of economic development. Agriculture, forestry and fisheries have provided the economic foundation of six Upper Eastern Shore Maryland counties. These "natural resource-based industries" account for 22 percent — more than $2 billion — of the region's economic activity. However, increasing development pressure and decreasing profitability, combined with a multitude of other smaller yet significant factors, jeopardize the future of these industries and the spectacular 600,000+ acres of working lands upon which they depend. The recently released Regional Economic Development Strategy for Resource-Based Industries on Maryland's Upper Eastern Shore identifies an economic development strategy to address the challenges facing resource-based industries.

Conservation Security Program Call for Sign-ups
The Conservation Security Program (CSP) is a voluntary program that provides financial and technical assistance to promote the conservation and improvement of soil, water, air, energy, plant and animal life, and other conservation purposes on Tribal and private working lands. The nationwide sign-up for the 2005 CSP, will be open from March 27, 2005 to May 27, 2005 and is available to approximately 235,000 farmers and ranchers in 220 watersheds. The Center for Rural Affairs is operating a hotline to assist producers during the application process.

Farmers Get a New Tool to Help Sell Via Internet
From the Pacific Northwest to Martha's Vineyard, producers are creating ways to use the Internet to sell their goods. Last month, the National Farmers Union (NFU) unveiled its news Web site — a portal that allows farmers to make direct connections with consumers across the country to sell their goods. Although just getting started, the site should help producers and their co-ops develop new markets and consumers find the farm-produced products they are looking to buy. Let your favorite local farmer know about this great new tool!

News Briefs from Around the Country
The Hawaii legislature recently passed the Legacy Lands Act of 2005, which earmarks specific state funds to match the Federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program funding made available in FY 2005.

The Register Guard in Oregon ran this AFT-authored editorial about the value of farmland within a community.

In another victory for farmland protection, a court ruling in DeKalb County, Illinois upheld their agricultural zoning ordinance, which prevents farmland from being divided piecemeal for residential development.

Legislators in Florida have proposed a measure that would allow some farmers whose property is zoned for agriculture, but is surrounded on three sides by industrial, commercial or residential uses, to rezone their land for development.

Public agencies, private organizations, and individual farmers in Chatham County, North Carolina are joining together to create a vision for the next generation of farmers and ensure a future for farming in the county.

Private landowners in parts of Montana can now sign voluntary agreements with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks to implement land and water conservation measures on their property while also protecting the endangered arctic grayling.

The proposed Community Preservation Act would authorize New York towns to enact up to a two-percent real estate transfer tax to fund local farmland and open space conservation.

Farmland protection advocates in Connecticut released a new report titled "A Call To Farms: A Mid-Decade Review of Connecticut's Agricultural Lands" featuring a summary of key farmland data in the state of Connecticut, including land prices, land use and farmland loss.

The last dairy farm in Dungeness Valley, Washington has been protected by a conservation easement purchased by a combination of FRPP funds and the Clallam County Conservation Futures Fund.

This spring, residents of more than two dozen towns in Massachusetts will vote on establishing town agricultural commissions.


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