Farmland at Risk in Every State, the Stories of Four Winning Markets, A Smarter Safety Net for Belt Tightening Times

American Farmland Trust
American Farmland Trust

E-News September 28, 2010

Welcome to the September 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

Building Support for Restoration of Farmland Protection Funds

NY Capital

With the help of farmers, land trusts, local officials and many others, American Farmland Trust is working hard to turn around the funding crisis that has gripped New York’s Farmland Protection Program. New partners such as the New York State Association of Counties and their Blue Ribbon Task Force on the Future of Farming in New York are weighing in on the importance of agriculture to the state’s economy. State Assembly Agriculture Committee Chair William Magee sent a letter to Governor Paterson urging that budgeted funding be restored for farmland protection, and Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Darrel Aubertine has been in discussions with the Administration asking for full funding for the Farmland Protection Program.

Smart Growth Bill Signed into Law

Governor Paterson signed the Smart Growth Public Infrastructure Policy Act into law on August 30th. We joined Smart Growth advocacy group Empire State Future and other partners in supporting this legislation, which positions New York state to make the best use of limited funding for infrastructure. The new law requires state entities to consider Smart Growth criteria when investing in infrastructure such as highways and power corridors. One of these criteria is the protection of natural resources, including agricultural land. We look forward to working with our partners to put this law to work supporting thoughtful planning and investment in our state’s suburban and rural communities.

Rochester Public Market Voted America's Favorite Farmers Market

Rochester Public MarketThe Rochester Public Market took first place in our America’s Favorite Farmers Markets™ contest, in the large market category. We will visit the market to present the award on Thursday, October 7th. Rochester’s Mayor, Robert Duffy, will speak at the awards ceremony on the importance of agriculture and farmers markets to the state’s economy and public health. Other farmers markets that placed in New York’s top five include the Saratoga Farmers Market, the Ithaca Farmers Market, the Westside Farmers Market, and the Troy Waterfront Farmers Market.

New England

Rhode Island Royal PotatoesRhode Island Farmland Protection Ceremony Draws USDA and State Leaders

USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, U.S. Senator Jack Reed and Governor Donald Carcieri headlined a ceremony celebrating the protection of a 179-acre Ferolbink Farm in Tiverton, Rhode Island. The Peckham family farm markets all-local “RI Royal” potatoes and was protected with a combination of state and federal funds and private fundraising efforts. Deputy Merrigan cited the loss of 14 million acres of prime farmland to development between 1983 and 2007 when speaking about the importance of the federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program and its cooperative approach to land conservation.

Maine Ballot Question Would Fund Land for Maine's Future Program

Maine Barn and Field at DuskIn November, Maine voters will be asked to vote on a bond referendum authorizing $7.5 million for the Land for Maine’s Future program. This valuable state program has protected over 6,000 acres of productive agricultural land and is a critical source of matching funds for federal farmland protection investments in Maine. The Maine Land Coalition—a group of over 275 organizations, including American Farmland Trust, supporting the referendum—hopes that voters will continue their strong support for the program; since 1987, voters have approved four previous Land for Maine's Future bond measures by wide margins.

Farm Relief Concerts with Folk Legend Richie Havens

Folk Legend Richie HavensSupport New England farms by attending the 2010 New England Farm Relief Concert on November 12th at the Lebanon Opera House, Lebanon, NH and November 13th at the Latchis Theatre in Brattleboro, VT.  Proceeds will go to the Microloan Fund for Farmers, which was launched in 2008 by The Strolling of the Heifers and The Carrot Project to address the credit needs of farmers unable to borrow elsewhere. 

The Microloan Fund is focused on small and mid-sized farms located in Vermont or in Massachusetts that are marketing a portion of their products to local markets. Loans are capped at $10,000 and may be used for capital investments, repairs, short-term operating needs, and emergency funds.  

 Main Stories

Farmland Is at Risk in Every State

No Farms No Food and CornNewly released statistics show that in this country, we’ve been losing more than an acre of farmland every minute. That stacks up to nearly one million acres per year converted to highways, shopping malls and poorly planned development. The recent National Resources Inventory, conducted by the USDA, shows every state losing farmland between 1982 and 2007. Texas tops the list for states losing the most acres, with New Jersey losing the greatest percentage of its farmland during the twenty-five year period.

Helping Farmers Address the Problem of Hypoxia in Our Coastal Waters

Gulf of Mexico Hypoxic Dead ZoneOur nation’s coastal waters are vital resources to the local economies along their shores; they contain habitats rich with life that can be impacted by run-off into the waterways. A recent report released by the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy warns of a bleak future for these areas and the delicate ecosystems they support.The reason: low oxygen "dead zones." Join us in heeding the call to protect our precious coastal waters by expanding conservation opportunities before it is too late.

A Smarter Safety Net for Belt Tightening Times

Corn FarmerWith the public demanding less federal spending these days, a number of 2012 Farm Bill programs could be in jeopardy as lawmakers try to write a bill that does not outspend the 2008 Farm Bill. To this end, we're pleased to see a growing number of stakeholders calling for a smarter farm safety net, primarily through the expansion of ACRE, the cornerstone of our efforts during the 2008 bill. In other farm bill news, the rule to create the new Conservation Loan program has just been issued. American Farmland Trust and our partners pushed very hard for this program in the last farm bill and hope it will help farmers with upfront costs of implementing conservation programs on their farms.

Sharing the Stories of Four Winning Markets

Farmers Market WinnerThis year’s winners of the America’s Favorite Farmers Markets™ contest each have a story to tell about how they are building a stronger future for farms in their community. Read the story about how markets of four different sizes and four different histories brought their communities together to become one of the 2010 winning farmers markets:

 Around the Country

A new guide, Private Lands, Public Benefits, Incentives for the Stewardship of Texas Agricultural Lands helps Texans who value the many benefits provided by working farms and ranches and want to ensure a future for the state’s farms and ranches.

According to new statistics released by American Farmland Trust’s Farmland Information Center, state governments’ efforts to protect agricultural land through purchase of agricultural conservation easement (PACE) programs accelerated in 2009 despite funding shortfalls.
Be a Friend of Farms and join American Farmland Trust for our inaugural Dine Out for Farms™ week, by dining at one of our participating restaurants October 10-16th.

New York’s Governor Paterson signed the Smart Growth Public Infrastructure Policy Act into law requiring state entities to consider Smart Growth criteria when investing in infrastructure such as highways and power corridors. One of these criteria is the protection of natural resources, including agricultural land.

The nation is watching the Chesapeake Bay states and their farmers as they take on a monumental effort to clean up one of America’s most treasured waterways. This online photography gallery provides a vivid view into what is at stake.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture honored Chad Wallace of Oak Tree Organics as the 2010 winner of the R.J. Vollmer Sustainable Agriculture Farmer Award.

A New England Farm Relief Concert will be in November to support the Microloan Fund which lends support to small- and mid-sized farms located in Vermont or in Massachusetts that are marketing at least a portion of their products to local markets. 

Farmers and ranchers are stewards of almost half the land in America and provide food, feed, fuel and fiber for our nation. Let's remind President Obama that farmland is integral to "America's Great Outdoors." Submit a comment today!

Get ready for the Community Food Security Coalition: 14th Annual Conference, "Food, Culture, & Justice: The Gumbo that Connects us All." Held in New Orleans, Louisiana October 16 – 19.

The new Michigan Good Food Charter was recently released as a blueprint for actions that could be picked up by new decision makers after the November elections.

American Farmland Trust’s long-time advisor and friend Norm Berg has been suitably honored by the USDA with his induction into the Hall of Heroes.

The New England Governors' Conference are engaging partners and working to strengthen New England’s agricultural economy, grow capacity to produce food and protect natural resources.

Be sure to stop by our booth for a good ol’ fashioned quiz and cow toss in the HOMEGROWN Village at Farm Aid 25: Growing Hope for America at Miller Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin!

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