Transforming Farm Policy, Protecting Farmland in the Voting Booth, and the Benefits of Local Food Systems


American Farmland Trust
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Welcome to the November 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? Check out our Farmland Report blog.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN MARYLAND

New Grant Opportunity May Help Farmland Protection Efforts in Bay

Corn-crop-Maryland.jpgA new grant program seeking to protect native trout in the Chesapeake Bay may have positive implications for farmland protection in the region. Trout Unlimited recently announced its inaugural round of applications for the Chesapeake Bay Coldwater Land Conservancy Fund. Funding will support landowners, land trusts and conservation organizations in their efforts to acquire conservation easements that benefit brook trout habitat. Applications are due December 30, 2011.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN NEW ENGLAND

Farm Transfer Training Through New England Land Access Project

Boy-with-Pumpkin.jpgDo you help farm families address farm succession and transfer planning? If so, you may be interested in a training being offered on November 17 by the Farm Transfer Task Force of the Land Access Project. The training is intended to guide farm transfer planning practitioners through best practices, planning approaches and challenges, use of farm transfer planning teams, and farm transfer planning resources in the region. For more information or to register for the workshop, visit the Land For Good website.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN NEW YORK

Sweet Corn and Clean Water: Working with Farmers to Protect Long Island Sound

Corn-and-barn-in-New-York-S.jpg

We recently received a $150,000 grant from the Long Island Sound Futures Fund to work with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County and AgFlex, Inc. to help farmers protect water quality in Long Island Sound. The project, which involves farmer outreach and education, on-farm demonstrations, and risk protection options for participating producers, could help sweet corn farmers in Suffolk County reduce the amount of fertilizer flowing into Long Island Sound by up to 38 percent.

2012 No Farms No Food® Rally —February 15, Albany

NFNF-Button-logo.jpgPut it on your calendar! Our third annual No Farms No Food® Rally will be held in Albany on February 15, 2012. Join farmers, food advocates, local officials, environmentalists and other New Yorkers at the State Capitol to urge state leaders to support funding and legislation that protects farmland and the environment, increases the availability of nutritious food grown in New York and strengthens the farm and food economy. Bus transportation roundtrip from New York City to Albany will be available. Online registration is coming soon! In the meantime, check out last year’s rally.

Economic Development Draft Plans to be Released

Central-NY.jpgThis month, New York’s Regional Councils for Economic Development are unveiling their draft plans to stimulate economic development and job creation. As these proposed plans are finalized, we need your help to make sure the Regional Councils understand that the business of agriculture is critically important to our economy, land base and food security. These councils, launched by Governor Cuomo in July to bring state government and business leaders together to address economic challenges, are coordinating efforts across New York to compete for up to one billion dollars in state economic aid. Visit our Regional Economic Development Councils resource page for links to the draft plans and directions for submitting public comment to help support the inclusion of farms and farmland in the final version of the proposed plans.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST

Farmland Losses, Continued

Blueberry-bushes-Skagit-Val.jpgThere's not much good to say about the economic downturn, but it has brought a welcome lull to farmland conversions in the Pacific Northwest. This may be coming to an end. In Pierce County, Washington, a proposal to convert 180 acres of prime farmland to a new shopping mall and subdivision was recently approved. While the County Council expressed support for farmland protection, the lure of construction jobs was overwhelming with a final 7-0 vote in support of the proposed urban expansion. There are two similar proposals in Skagit County, Washington, and we’ve joined with other farm and smart growth organizations in opposition to the projects. We are also preparing economic and jobs arguments for preserving farmland in anticipation of the next "land rush" as we slowly come out of the recession.

Puget Sound Foodshed Study

apples-river-washington.jpgWe are a month into our study of the Puget Sound Foodshed with the assistance of a dozen University of Washington graduate students and a top-flight advisory committee. The study is looking at food production and consumption in the 17 counties west of the Cascade Range using models such as our Think Globally, Eat Locally: San Francisco Foodshed Assessment. The study will identify the potential of local farmland to produce additional food for the region and the changes in production, processing and distribution needed to link
                                            local farmers to local consumers. 

Evaluating the Most Endangered Farm and Ranch Landscapes

Urban-Sprawl-drop.jpgThe Pacific Northwest office is also in the midst of an analysis of the most endangered farm and ranch landscapes of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and western Montana. Using land use data, a media scan, interviews, and other research, we are evaluating farm and ranch landscapes throughout the region to determine which areas are most at risk from urban sprawl, rural estates, competition for water, and water and soil pollution. Initial results of county-level analysis in Washington shows there are areas in need of improvement as farmland continues to disappear. We will reach out to local groups in the second phase of the analysis to confirm the issues and offer support in addressing the threats. 

NATIONAL IMPACT

What Is at Stake in the Next Farm Bill?farm-bill-barn.jpg

Change is inevitable in U.S. farm and food policy, and recommendations are coming in at a rapid rate for what the next farm bill should look like. The 2012 Farm Bill presents a critical opportunity for the nation to confront the food, farm, energy and environmental challenges it faces. Agenda 2012: Transforming U.S. Farm Policy for the 21st Century builds on our pioneering work from previous farm bills as we continue to seek innovative ways to protect farms, the environment and farmland. Dig deeper into our policy recommendations and analysis at www.farmbillfacts.org, or get a quick overview of the current federal policy climate with our Farm Bill 101.

Elections and Farmland Protection

Jim-Crawford-hi-res.jpgEach year, our Farmland Information Center surveys the purchase of agricultural conservation easement programs at the state and local levels. This year’s survey found 25 states with state-level programs and an additional 93 independently funded local programs spread among 21 states. All told, 35 states have some type of this easement program activity at the state or local level and have invested more than $4.7 billion to acquire 15,774 easements and permanently protect more than 2.5 million acres. Each year, dozens of state and local governments vote to raise public funds in support of land conservation. Thanks to The Trust for Public Land, you can track how ballot measures fared in your state or community this year.

Meeting the Demand for Local FoodWoman-at-farmers-market.jpg

The rising popularity of healthy, local food presents an important opportunity to support the livelihood of farmers and ranchers. But as our New England Project Manager Leah Mayor explains, the affinity for local must move “Beyond the Plate” to ensure that working lands remain. In fact, a recent bill introduced to Congress by Rep. Pingree (D-ME) and Sen. Brown (D-OH) seeks to expand opportunities for local and regional farmers to connect with consumers. We're continuing our work across the country to help ensure that farms and ranches thrive while meeting increasing demand for local, fresh and healthy food through programs such as our upcoming webinar series on local and regional food system planning.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

The second annual Virginia Food Security Summit will be held in Charlottesville from December 5 to 6. Food trends from the national to local level will be discussed, as well the development of a Virginia Farm to Table plan.

Dennis Nuxoll, our Managing Director, Federal Policy, joined agriculture and policy leaders from across the country in Fargo, North Dakota, for Sen. Conrad’s (D-ND) summit on “2012 Farm Bill: Issues and Challenges.”

A chain of Washington, D.C., eateries is finding ways to strengthen the local food distribution chain as they expand their number of restaurants while still meeting their vision of supporting local farmers.

Grant opportunities are available for farmers and ranchers seeking to pursue sustainable agricultural practices in the North Central region—spanning from Minnesota and North Dakota to Kansas, Illinois and Ohio.

The University of California, Davis, recently announced a new undergraduate program in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems.

The USDA just announced its publication of street addresses and geocodes for more than 6,200 farmers markets in the United States. Now you can access your favorite markets with the touch of a cell phone key.

A Minnesota farm couple converted their old plowed land into a grass-fed cow “oasis” while preserving native trees, shrubs and species. Their revised landscape also helps to reduce soil erosion and water pollution, which in turn brings additional species to their property.

In conjunction with the University of Kentucky and the Governors Office of Agriculture, a new online resource was created for Kentuckians to have easier access to locally produced food. The page also includes nutritional, economical and environmental resources.

A new study conducted in the Southeast found that food prices at farmers markets are highly competitive with those at grocery stores.


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