Farms and the Global Action Atlas, Urban Farming and Saving Farmland and America's Great Outdoors

American Farmland Trust
American Farmland Trust

E-News April 22, 2010

Welcome to the April issue of E-news. Click here to view a version of E-news on the web. Can't wait until next month's E-news to hear more about farms, food, and the environment? Check out our Farmland Report blog where we post regular updates about our work across the country and in the nation's capital.

New York

State Budget Still in the Works

The April 1st deadline has come and gone as the state legislature continues to debate how best to close a more than $9 billion shortfall in the current New York state budget. As negotiations continue, the governor is submitting weekly emergency extender bills, which are then approved by the legislature to allow the state to continue operating.

There is still time left to make sure your voice is heard by state lawmakers! Ask your legislators to fund critical state farm and food programs.

Fresh FlyerA Fresh View in the Hudson Valley

A series of screenings of the documentary Fresh, hosted by American Farmland Trust and Edible Hudson Valley, have drawn crowds and inspired discussion about farms and food in the Hudson Valley, which our Farming on the Edge study ranks as the nation’s 10th most threatened agricultural region. Screenings were held at the Stone Barns Center for Agriculture in Tarrytown, the Moviehouse in Millertown, and the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. Each screening was followed by a panel discussion with David Haight, director of American Farmland Trust’s New York Office, along with local farmers, chefs and farm and food policy makers.

Central New York Roundtable

New York Vineyard

Over 50 farmers, town officials, county representatives and local planners gathered at a Roundtable Discussion on Municipal Agriculture and Farmland Protection Plans held at the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cayuga County in Auburn. “This was a wonderful opportunity to share ideas and know that we are not alone in the process of creating a farmland protection plan for our community,” said one participant. A Western New York roundtable is currently in the works for mid-June. For more information about the Western New York roundtable, contact Diane Held at View sample completed town plans:

New England

Deputy USDA Secretary and Rep. DeLauro Headline CT Farmland Protection Conference

Rep. Rosa DeLauro and Undersecretary Kathleen Merrigan High-Five

Two of the most influential women in American agriculture—Deputy USDA Secretary Kathleen Merrigan and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), chair of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee—both strong supporters of farmland protection, spoke at the Working Land Alliance’s 10th anniversary conference in March at Yale's Kroon Hall. The conference also featured sessions on farmland protection tools and financing, community farms and farmland access, and linking farmland protection with regional food security and access. Working Lands Alliance released a white paper outlining the status of farmland preservation efforts in Connecticut.

View the materials and presentations for the conference, Plowing Ahead: Farmland Preservation in 2010 and Beyond.

Rhode Island Agricultural Partnership Formed

Cultivating Squash in Rhode IslandThe Rhode Island Agricultural Partnership is a new collaborative of farm agencies, commodity organizations, agricultural non-profits and farmers in Rhode Island formed to build on recent success to help sustain and grow the state's agriculture sector and local food system. The partnership will be drafting a five-year strategic plan to provide a vision for the future, identify needs and recommend a path of action for agriculture in the state.

The partnership is soliciting farmer input through a series of listening sessions. The final session of three will be held on April 28th at 6:00 PM in Slatersville, RI.


Protecting Farmland in Environmental Markets

Washington River Photograph by Steve WerblowDon Stuart of our Pacific Northwest Office is helping develop a variety of markets for environmental services provided by working farmland. These markets can improve environmental protection, reduce its public cost, and provide new diversified income for farmers and ranchers. The protection of active, working farmland can be among the benefits of these markets, but there are also risks. We are soliciting comments from you on our papers, How Environmental Markets Can Preserve Agricultural Lands While Helping to Protect the Environment and Maximizing Opportunities for Farmland Protection in Environmental Markets (and minimizing the potential for loss). Download the papers and send your comments to Don Stuart at

Main Stories

Where in the World Will You Take Action For Farms and the Environment?Take Action for Our Work Around the Country

Take action on five of our target projects across the nation this Earth Day. These five on-the-ground projects are featured on National Geographic’s brand new Global Action Atlas! The Atlas spotlights hundreds of local, cause-related projects from around the world, giving individuals opportunities to take action by donating, volunteering, advocating, and sharing information. Find American Farmland Trust's first five projects to be included on the Action Atlas.

Urban Farming Gets Real

Urban Farmer

The federal government and a slew of states are pursuing ways to not only officially recognize urban agriculture, but also to allow and promote urban farming activities. The Greening Food Deserts Act would create a Department of Urban Agriculture within the USDA and boost backyard conservation, community gardens and farmers markets. Maryland is leading the way for states with a fast moving bill that provides tax credits for land used for urban agriculture, and legislators in California are getting behind legislation that acknowledges fresh and healthy food as a “basic human right” and promotes opportunities for urban farms stands, farmers markets and direct farmer-to-consumer marketing. Georgia is looking at easing restrictions for private urban food production, Michigan is tying urban agriculture to economic growth and Oklahoma has an urban agriculture bill in play.

Saving Farmland Is a Big Part of Saving America's Great Outdoors

Wisconsin Farm with Grey Barn

President Obama signed a memorandum and established the America’s Great Outdoors initiative that sets a 21st century conservation agenda to bridge public and private efforts to conserve outdoor spaces, including farmland, and connect Americans with the outdoors. AFT’s Jimmy Daukas attended the White House conference and said, “America’s private farm and ranch land is a critical element to any strategy to protect America’s Great Outdoors. Farms produce more than food, fiber and renewable fuels. Increasingly, our farm and ranch land is being pressed into service to address climate change, air and water pollution and energy concerns. We look forward to working with the administration and the impressive stakeholders in attendance on this initiative.”

Around the Country

USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, a champion for farms and food, has been nominated as one of Time magazine’s most influential people. Add your vote!

The Natural Resources Conservation Service celebrates 75 years of protecting the nation’s resources.

Maryland passes an important pilot program to to defer estate tax payments so that farms will stay in agricultural use when estate taxes might otherwise be an obstacle.

California's farmland is put at risk as the Williamson Act is threatened by the strain of budget cuts.

Our new study shows that farmers in Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico are likely to be positively impacted by federal climate change legislation.

A new report on farmland loss in Missoula County, Montana issues a call to action to conserve land and build a local food economy that supports working farms and ranches.

Colorado is providing kids with access to healthy food with the Farm-to-School Healthy Kids Act, which established the inter-agency farm-to-school coordination task force.

A bill has been introduced in Indiana's state senate that would establish a local and organic food and farm task force charged with making a plan for how the state will support local food systems.

In Missouri, a proposed initiative requires the Department of Agriculture to administer the Farm Fresh Schools Program, a local foods certification program, and a community garden grant program, all created by the act.

Farmers in Mississippi get a break with the help of new state law providing sales tax exemptions for food sold at farmers markets.

If it passes, a new bill in Ohio would permit transfer of development rights.
The Food Desert Relief Act could authorize the Tennessee local development authority to develop food desert relief enterprises.
Share your comments about a new rule proposed by the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service that provides for the option of buying “unprocessed locally grown or locally raised agricultural products” for school feeding programs. This proposal spells out how an optional “geographic preference” definition would apply.
Farmers market managers: Get counted in the 2010 USDA National Farmers Market Directory, the official count of the nation’s farmers markets. Add your market between now and May 14th!
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