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Calling All Stewards of the Land
Nominations are now being accepted for American Farmland Trust’s 2006 Steward of the Land Award. The $10,000 prize is presented annually to a farmer or rancher that best exemplifies American Farmland Trust's mission of stopping the loss of productive farmland and promoting farming practices that lead to a healthy environment. Entering a landmark tenth anniversary year, the Steward of the Land Award is also working to raise awareness of the public benefits agriculture provides as discussions about changing farm policies in the 2007 Farm Bill begin. Nomination kits can be downloaded or requested by calling (800) 886-5170 x3044.

Texas Legislature Approves Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easements Program
Texas is the 25th state to create a purchase of agricultural conservation easements (PACE) program. The Texas Farm and Ranch Lands Conservation Program awaits the Governor’s signature and allows willing landowners sell conservation easements, or the rights to develop their land, protecting the state’s dwindling working agricultural and ranch lands, wildlife habitat, water quality and native areas. The American Farmland Trust led initiative was supported by a diverse coalition. PACE: The Status of State Programs, a newly updated fact sheet from American Farmland Trust’s Farmland Information Center, provides information about other state PACE programs.

Agricultural Spending Bill Calls for Cuts to Conservation Programs in FY 2006
An agricultural spending bill for FY 2006 calling for $478.2 million in cuts to working lands conservation programs has been approved by the U.S. House of Representatives. The cuts come at a time when three out of four farmers and ranchers who apply for the programs are turned down due to insufficient funding. The bill also reinforces the recent trend of capping spending on mandatory conservation programs in order to offset other spending initiatives.

New Resources at the Farmland Information Center
American Farmland Trust’s Farmland Information Center (FIC), the nation’s premier clearinghouse of information about farmland protection and land stewardship, is growing! New additions to the ever-expanding collection of resources include the updated Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program fact sheet, a collection of 2002 Farm Bill programs codified as federal law in the U.S. Code and the 2005 state purchase of agricultural conservation easement (PACE) program statistics, PACE: The Status of State Programs. Visit the FIC Web site or call the FIC’s experts at 800-370-4879 to find the answers to your farming-related questions.

Farmer/Rancher Forums Help Shape Recommendations on 2007 Farm Bill
American Farmland Trust is holding forums with farmers and ranchers across the country to help AFT identify and prioritize practical policy ideas to strengthen the future of American agriculture and dramatically increase the public benefits of federal farm programs. The ideas span a large range of issues likely to be addressed in the 2007 Farm Bill including risk management, real safety nets, conservation programs, new markets, research, rural development and healthy foods. Producers believe change is coming and are identifying ways to revamp existing farm policy to free farmers from the distorting influences of the current subsidies, help them manage risk, expand regional food systems, comply with trade agreements and protect the environment. AFT along with other groups will analyze and model these ideas to develop a blueprint of proposed policies for the 2007 Farm Bill. This is part of AFT's farm policy reform initiative.

South Dakota State Legislation Will Help Bolster Niche Beef Market
New statewide legislation in South Dakota will help create a market premium for state-grown beef, increase rural profits, and provide a reason for more young people to stay on the farm in South Dakota. The goal of the legislation is to market South Dakota certified beef to people who care about where their meat comes from and how it was raised. Any beef sold under the new label will come from an animal that has been tracked by a computer from birth, raised and butchered inside state borders, fed a diet with specific nutritional standards and raised humanely. This new law is one example of an agricultural economic development tool that can be included as part of a larger state-level plan for agriculture.

News Briefs from Around the Country
It’s June, and that means farmers’ markets are open nationwide with fresh lettuces and greens, berries, herbs, asparagus, radishes, and locally grown meat, dairy products and eggs. Find your local farmers market and start reaping the benefits of their harvests and support local agriculture!

Pennsylvania’s new Growing Greener bond initiative authorizes the Commonwealth to borrow up to $625 million for the maintenance and protection of the environment, open space, farmland and watersheds, abandoned mine reclamation, acid mine drainage remediation and other environmental initiatives.

Hawaii passed legislation this session that creates a process for identifying Important Agricultural Lands, establishes land use policies and incentive programs affecting such lands and allocates funding for each county to handle the mapping and planning steps of designating Important Agricultural Lands.

The Colorado Governor signed HB 1244, which protects against the improper use of Colorado's state income tax credit for donations of conservation easements by granting the state Department of Revenue authority to review and evaluate the appraisal values of conservation easements, evaluate the amount and validity of the credit to determine whether the tax credit is being used properly and establish a dispute resolution procedure.

Legislation in Connecticut that would generate approximately $6 million annually for the state's Farmland Preservation Program has passed both the House and Senate and is headed to the Governor's desk.

New York Governor George Pataki has expressed his support of the Community Preservation Act, which would provide New York cities, towns and villages with a locally derived, dedicated source of revenue for funding local farmland protection and open space initiatives.

The Land Trust Alliance is holding its National Land Conservation Conference Rally 2005 on October 14-17, 2005 in Madison, Wisconsin. Sessions will focus on the latest land protection tools, trend-setting projects and new legal and legislative developments.

 


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