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Keeping Agriculture Strong on a Regional Basis
American Farmland Trust (AFT) recently completed an assessment of agricultural viability in Berks and Schuylkill counties in southeastern Pennsylvania. Commissioned by the Berks County Community Foundation, the report analyzed the region’s agricultural sustainability and made recommendations to address the formidable challenges of declining farm profitability, competition for land, and lack of public appreciation and leadership for agriculture in the region. Recommendations included creating an agricultural economic development entity and designing an education campaign for government officials and the general public on agricultural issues. The study’s advisory committee recently convened to discuss implementation of this new plan for the future viability of agriculture in the two counties.

New Guide for Rocky Mountain Farmers and Ranchers
Farmers and ranchers in the Rocky Mountain region hold together an increasingly fragmented landscape, one that is losing more than 127,000 acres of U.S. agricultural land to development each year. The newly released Rocky Mountain Agricultural Landowners Guide to Conservation and Sustainability [PDF] provides information about the public programs and private options available in seven states to help farmers and ranchers who want to conserve their land and maintain its long-term health for future generations. The guide is a result of the Coleman Eco-Project 2015, a unique 10-year partnership between AFT and Coleman Natural Foods (CNF) to address the critical need to protect working farms and ranches.

President’s FY 2007 Budget Released as House Completes Reconciliation Bill
The FY 07 budget debate kicked off this month with the release of the administration’s budget proposal. The $125.6 billion proposed budget for the USDA includes $5.11 billion for mandatory and discretionary conservation programs—a $244 million decrease over FY 06 levels. One of the first items of business for the House as it started its second session was completion of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (S. 1932). The bill, which passed in the Senate before the winter recess, squeaked through the House by a vote of 216-214, includes $2.7 billion in cuts to agricultural programs. [Read More]

Partnering for Farms AND Salmon
American Farmland Trust (AFT) has partnered with Shared Strategy for Puget Sound to create a locally supported “Puget Sound Salmon Recovery Plan” that saves both farms and fish. The draft plan, now under comment from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service (NOAA), contains a section that specifically recognizes the environmental importance of preserving agriculture. The plan presents actions that can be taken to save salmon while also saving farms. When done properly, this can result in a “partn ership for farms and salmon” in the Puget Sound, representing a huge step ahead for local farmers. The full plan can be found on Shared Strategy’s Web site.

AFT’s 2006 National Conference Call for Proposals
Farming on the Edge: The Next Generation,” AFT’s fourth national conference, will be held November 13-15 in Newark, Delaware. The 2006 conference will explore the future of agriculture: the next generation of national farm policies, farmland protection programs, community planning, agricultural production practices and markets, and farmers themselves. Hosted by the state of Delaware, where nearly 80,000 acres on 442 farms have been permanently protected, the conference will bring together national experts on these issues. AFT is currently accepting presentation proposals for the conference; the deadline is April 15. For more information e-mail Doris Mittasch.

News Briefs from Around the Country
Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced the 2006 Conservation Security Program (CSP) sign-up will be held Feb. 13, 2006 to March 31, 2006 in 60 watersheds nationwide.

Legislation was introduced in Ohio to give counties, townships and municipalities flexibility in crafting programs to transfer development rights (TDR) across jurisdictions.

The University of Wisconsin-Extension and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture are coordinating a six-day rolling Ultimate Land Use Study Tour through Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania to learn about successful growth management and farmland protection programs.

Indiana’s Agriculture Deputy Secretary Chuck Conner announced the availability of nearly $38 million in funding for competitively selected projects in four conservation emphasis areas.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. proposed restoring Maryland's funding commitment to land preservation in the coming fiscal year, a move that aides said would earmark more than $373 million for those efforts—about three times what the state is spending this year.

Owners of farmland across Georgia will soon have the opportunity to sell their development rights through the Georgia Land Conservation Program.

Family farmers from all over the country can sell fresh products directly to Agraria in Washington, D.C., the first of a chain of restaurants owned in part by farmers and centered on American farming.

Owners of three farms in northern Merced County, California recently sold conservation easements, guaranteeing that 472 acres won’t ever be developed there.

ATTRA’s Local Food Directory Resource includes national, regional, state and community directory resources for all 50 states that help agricultural producers connect with customers.


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