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E-News October 5, 2006

AFT's National Conference Features Farmland Preservation Tours

On Sunday, November 12, join the “Highways, History and Horses” tour at AFT's national conference, Farming on the Edge: The Next Generation, to enjoy Delaware’s river and bay coastal area and Maryland horse country. Tour host the Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation will share its successes in joining highways and history to protect agriculture. On Monday, November 13, the “Brandywine Country: Art and Agriculture,” tour hosted by the Brandywine Conservancy winds through the inspirational Brandywine River Valley in Pennsylvania. Visits include the 771-acre Laurels Preserve, a mushroom farm and lunch at the Brandywine River Museum, home to an impressive collection of Wyeth art. Register soon! Seating on tours is limited.

Bringing Local Healthy Food to School CafeteriasFarm to School Program - MLUI Photo Dana Corbin

Farm-to-school programs are sprouting up nationwide as more and more schools connect with local farms. The programs work to serve healthy meals in school cafeterias, improve student health and provide nutrition education, all while supporting local agriculture. The schools buy and feature farm fresh foods like fruits and vegetables, providing farmers with access to new markets through schools. Currently, the federal government spends billions of dollars to subsidize grains and other crops while providing almost no support for fruits and vegetables. AFT’s recommendations for the 2007 Farm Bill include support for initiatives like farm-to school programs that promote healthier diets [PDF] and increase demand for specialty crops and locally grown food.

Opening a Pandora’s Box

In California, the debate over Proposition 90 is heating up as the November election nears. On the surface, Prop 90 is being sold as eminent domain reform in response to the controversial Kelo case decided last year by the U.S. Supreme Court. However, hidden in the fine print is a requirement that allows property owners to file claims against the state or local governments whenever zoning or other land use regulations restrict how they can use their land. Similar to California’s Prop 90 is the state of Washington’s property rights initiative I-933, which will be voted on in November. Both measures are similar to an initiative—known as Measure 37—that passed in Oregon in 2004 and drastically limited that state’s power to regulate land-use. There, $4 billion in claims have been filed and more than 700 local land use regulations have been waived. Eminent domain reform may be needed, but Prop 90 and I-933 go too far and are likely to cause considerable damage to the future of agriculture by crippling programs that control sprawl and protect farmland.

Saving Land Still Saves Money

Cost of Community Services (COCS) studies—a snapshot in time of costs versus revenues for each type of land use—have been conducted in at least 125 communities across the United States. A subset of the much larger field of fiscal analysis, AFT’s COCS studies have emerged as an inexpensive and reliable tool to measure direct fiscal relationships. The studies help local officials and citizens make informed land use and policy decisions about saving land.

Take Action Today

Proposed Changes to FRPP Will Thwart Farm and Ranch Land Protection

AFT recently submitted comments on the interim final rule for the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) [PDF]. The comments encouraged the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to develop a certification process that waives certain program requirements for established state and local programs that have a demonstrated track record in farm and ranch land protection. AFT questioned the agency’s attempt to re-characterize its interest in FRPP easements and urged it to implement a program that reduces the regulatory burden placed on cooperating entities.

Around the Country

Nominations are now being accepted for American Farmland Trust’s 2007 Steward of the Land Award.

1000 Friends of Wisconsin’s “Ten of the Best” Awards for Achievements included recognition for efforts to establish effective state policies to promote agriculture.

In Virginia, Governor Kaine’s changes to the Conservation Tax Credit were approved by the general assembly.

Several local funding initiatives for farmland protection in New York’s Hudson Valley are on local ballots this November.

Many organizations are lining up against California’s Prop 90.

A recent study shows the percentage of Ohioans very concerned about the loss of farmland to development increased from 55 to 70 percent between 2004 and 2006.

Give your feedback to improve resources and services provided by the Farmland Information Center by filling out their user survey.

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