Welcome to the February edition of our monthly E-news, featuring the latest on farm and ranch land protection, environmentally and economically sustainable agriculture, planning for agriculture, local foods and more.
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Saving Farms and Farmland Draws Crowds Around the Country
All around the country, crowds want to hear about the hot topic of farmland protection and planning for agriculture in the future. Farmland protection tools and strategies were discussed at the recent Illinois Openlands Conference, and on February 28th New Yorkers will learn how to Grow New York Farms in the 21st Century. Hear baseball legend and Pennsylvania farmland protection leader Gene Garber’s advice to attendees at December’s Michigan Farmland Preservation Conference; earlier in the fall, American Farmland Trust co-hosted Ohio's eighth, and, the nation’s largest single-state farmland preservation conference.
Farm to Convenience Store? A New Piece to the Local Food Puzzle
Locally grown produce is showing up in more and more restaurants and regularly stocked in some grocery store chains—helping expand the customer base for nearby farms. Now, shoppers at a Michigan convenience store can purchase fresh fruits and vegetables grown by local farmers, thanks to the efforts of a local organization and a commitment from the community. "If you plan to bring a similar project to your community, just do it. We could have spent years and lots of money planning, researching and printing fancy bound reports... but a basic survey and logical argument was all it took," says NorthWest Institute Food Systems Project Coordinator, Katie Olender.
A Future for Farms and Ranches in Santa Barbara County
California’s Santa Barbara County is known not only for its dramatic coastline, but also for expansive grazing lands and fine wines. AFT’s recent study, Santa Barbara County Agricultural Resources Environmental/Economic Assessment, assessed the economic and environmental benefits provided by agriculture in the county and prospects for its future. "There are opportunities for agriculture to thrive in Santa Barbara, but they’re dependent on farm-friendly land use policies that support retail and value-added agriculture, keep land available and affordable for farming and ranching, and offset the high costs of labor and labor housing," says AFT’s Julia Freedgood.
Clock Is Ticking for the Farm Bill
Congress has less than six weeks before a temporary extension of the 2002 Farm Bill runs out. Reports indicate that the White House is pushing for more reform in subsidy payment limitations but also wants to cut funding sources for critical programs like conservation, local foods and nutrition. The administration’s 2009 budget includes more cuts to agriculture programs, reinforcing the need to get a strong farm bill passed this winter. The Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) is one of the first casualties of the farm bill delay. Less than half of the $97 million appropriated by Congress for FRPP in FY08 will actually be made available, despite over $100 million in requests. Concerns over potential FRPP changes in the farm bill led USDA to allocate only $44 million for projects this fiscal year.
AFT is keeping the pressure on for at least $5 billion in additional funding for conservation in the farm bill. The Senate announced their conferees yesterday, indicating farm bill negotiations are accelerating. As final debates take place, take action to keep conservation, farmland protection, subsidy reform, local foods and renewable energy in the forefront of conferees' minds.
Around the Country
Conservation partnerships have helped bring about the protection of three historic ranches in Tomales, California, covering more than 1,200 acres.
New York announced nearly $500,000 in state funding to help 21 towns develop local agricultural and farmland protection plans.
In Virginia, the proposed HB 727 would help farmers protect water quality and working farmland.
Ohio farmland preservation advocates are considering a proposal to encourage county-based Agricultural Easement Purchase Programs (AEPP).
Several Illinois farmers are refusing to let a Canadian company build an oil pipeline through their land.
North Carolina’s Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund (ADFPTF) received the first proposals for state farmland preservation funding.
New Mexico now has one of the most generous state conservation easement tax programs with HB 990 in effect; the bill increases the maximum amount of income tax credit for easement donations and allows for the credits to be transferable.