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AFT Announces 2005 Steward of the Land Award Winner
On Tuesday, May 17, 2005 California rancher Steve Sinton will become the ninth American farmer to win AFT's prestigious $10,000 Steward of the Land Award at a ceremony on the historic Santa Margarita Ranch in Santa Margarita, California. Sinton is a fifth generation agriculturist and fourth generation cattle rancher whose family's ranching history began in 1906 in Shandon, California. He was chosen in recognition of his lifelong commitment to conservation and exceptional stewardship.

Local Government Takes Lead in Farmland Preservation and Agricultural Viability
In a 2000 community values survey, 64 percent of the respondents strongly supported the preservation of farmland, illustrating that planning for agriculture has become a priority for the city of Bainbridge Island, Washington. Two ordinances aimed at promoting the local agricultural economy have been adopted — a right to farm ordinance and an ordinance to allow for year-round retail sales of island-grown crops, value added products and agricultural tourism as an accessory use in certain zoning districts. Landowners are registering for the current use tax assessment program and residents recently passed a bond that allows the city to directly purchase island farm properties so they can stay in agriculture. The agricultural lands component of the 2004 Comprehensive Plan Update details Bainbridge Island’s commitment to keeping land available and affordable for farming, as well as ensuring that agriculture is economically viable in the local community.

AFT Urges Congress to Fund Agricultural Conservation Programs
Conservation programs already have suffered disproportionate cuts including $3.6 billion in cuts since the 2002 Farm Bill was signed even though 3 our of 4 farmers are turned away. In reaction to the passage of the 2006 budget resolution cutting agricultural spending by $3 billion, American Farmland Trust took to Capitol Hill urging lawmakers to distribute these reductions equitably across all farm programs and all conservation programs. AFT sent letters to the House and Senate Appropriations and Agriculture Committees urging them to fully fund conservation programs.

New Agricultural Landowners Guide for South Carolina
South Carolinians take great pride in their land and believe in the role of individuals to be stewards of the state’s natural resources. Many families make their living from this landscape including 24,000 farms that cover 4.8 million acres and produce more than $1.5 billion of crops and livestock annually. However, recent changes in the tobacco economy, rising land prices, an influx of new residents and other growth pressures threaten the future of South Carolina’s productive lands. This AFT-produced guide directs landowners to a variety of private, state and federal programs available for landowners who want to continue farming while pursuing conservation options and improving the productivity of their land.

Roundtable Examines Easement Stewardship Programs Nationwide
Conservation easements are coming under increased scrutiny from Congress and the Internal Revenue Service. Pressure is intensifying on easement holders to guarantee monitoring and enforcement of easements in perpetuity. Against this backdrop, AFT convened a roundtable meeting on March 21, 2005, with support from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to examine easement stewardship programs around the country. Land trust representatives, NRCS staff, local and state farmland protection program representatives and Land Trust Alliance (LTA) staff attended the meeting. A follow-up session based on the roundtable discussion is planned for the 2005 LTA Rally. White papers describing participants' easement stewardship programs are available on the FIC Web site.

News Briefs from Around the Country
A family farm in Maine is expanding and thriving thanks to a conservation easement placed on it using funds from the Land for Maine's Future program and the Natural Resources Conservation Service's Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program.

The Washington State Legislature passed SB 5396 establishing a new state Purchase of Conservation Easement program to protect some of the state’s farmland permanently.

Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff announced that more than 300,000 acres of farmland have been permanently protected in the state with the addition of 53 farms, totaling 5,674 acres, preserved during the state farmland preservation board meeting in Harrisburg in April.

A measure passed the Virginia General Assembly and will become law on July 1, 2005, that allows for the creation of agricultural-enterprise districts in which qualified agricultural and farm operations may apply to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for assistance in developing a new business plan and grant funding for up to 50 percent of the associated costs of implementing that plan, up to a maximum $500,000.

With North Carolina’s population projected to increase another 50 percent in the next 25 years, state agencies are taking a long-term look at the future of working lands.

New York’s recently passed budget for 2005-2006 included $16 million for the state’s Farmland Protection Program—a 25 percent increase over last year’s actual funding and good news overall for environmental funding in an otherwise difficult budget year.

 


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