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Property Tax Rebates and NRCS Payments for Conversion to Organic
Producers in Minnesota, Montana and Woodbury County, Iowa can now collect financial incentives to convert their operations to organic. In a move to revitalize rural communities, the Woodbury County, Iowa [PDF] Board of Supervisors established the first real property tax rebate program for converting from conventional to organic farming practices. In Minnesota [PDF], the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) offers yearly incentive payments of $45 per acre for cropland and $25 per acre per year for the conversion of pasture to organic. The Montana NRCS annual payments for organic transition are $35 per acre for crop and $3.50 per acre for livestock production conversion. "Organic agriculture can increase farm income while diversifying our crop production and improving our environment. I applaud these efforts that support sustainable agricultural practices," noted U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa).

Ag Leaders Discuss New Market Issues at AFT Forum
Leaders representing the local food system, new market and sustainable agriculture communities convened at Ayrshire Farm in Virginia to discuss policy options for the 2007 Farm Bill. Forum participants identified several key areas—including bio-energy, regional agricultural infrastructure, local food systems, young farmers, small and socially disadvantaged farmers and rural entrepreneurship—that should be promoted. Proposed policy options to address these areas were also discussed [PDF].

Budget Reconciliation Update
The Senate concluded its work on the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 before adjourning for its winter recess. The bill, which cuts over $2.7 billion from agricultural programs over the next five years, now heads back to the House where leaders again will try to push the bill through after the Senate made three minor changes to the conference report. The $2.7 billion in cuts to agricultural programs was less than the $3.14 billion proposed in the Senate or the $3.7 billion called for in the House.

Agriculture Plays a Crucial Role in Saving the Chesapeake Bay
There is a growing consensus that agriculture is a crucial partner in improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. After completing a recent report about agriculture in the region, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation is asking the state to invest at least $120 million annually in Maryland agriculture to help farmers implement proven practices for reducing pollution while also helping to ensure the future profitability of farming. "As reinforced by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in its State of the Bay report [PDF], well-managed agricultural land provides many more environmental benefits than developed land," said Agriculture Secretary Lewis R. Riley in his November 14 press release. "At a time when development pressure may be at its greatest, we need to find ways to keep farmers on the land for the benefit of the bay."

AFT Holds PACE Roundtables
Representatives from 15 different states discussed emerging issues in purchase of agricultural conservation easement (PACE) programs and the federal Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program at the 2005 AFT PACE Roundtable. Participants from state and local governments, private land trusts and the federal government focused on emerging trends that impact farmland protection programs including non-agricultural structures permitted on protected farmland, subdivision and housing on protected farms, affordability of protected farmland and the evolution of agricultural conservation easements. Challenges associated with the federal Farm and Ranchland Protection Program were also discussed.

Save the Date for AFT's 2006 National Conference
American Farmland Trust's 2006 national conference will be held November 13-15, 2006 in Newark, Delaware. "Farming on the Edge: The Next Generation" will focus on planning for agrculture: the next generation of national farm policies, farmland protection programs, community plans, farm production practices and markets. The 2006 conference is hosted by the state of Delaware, where the Agricultural Lands Preservation Program has permanently protected nearly 80,000 acres on 442 farms. For more information about AFT's national conference, e-mail Doris Mittash at

News Briefs from Around the Country
In Ohio, a farm preserved by a conservation easement is in the path of a proposed sewer line for the town of Marysville's new treatment plant, leaving the farmer and the Ohio Department of Agriculture preparing for battle and waiting to see if the city files for eminent domain.

Commissioners in Morgan County, Indiana are considering creating a farmland preservation program that would be funded through a development fee based on the length and width of new roads.

The Great Outdoors Colorado Board announced its first grants for the fiscal year [PDF] using $6 million in lottery dollars, including awards to maintain working ranches and sustain the agricultural economy.

The Florida legislature and Gov. Jeb Bush have reached a preliminary agreement for the state's largest land deal ever—the purchase of a 74,000-acre ranch that includes old-growth forest and cypress swamp—using the Florida Forever and the Rural Land Stewardship Programs.

Landowners in eastern North Carolina are working to keep the U.S. Navy from creating a 33,000-acre Outlying Landing Field for Super Hornet jets to practice landings—and for the right to keep farming the land that has been in their families for generations.

According to a University of Wisconsin-Madison study that viewed satellite land cover, the Earth is rapidly running out of fertile land.


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