April E-News: American Farmland Trust Supports Agriculture Programs in Federal Appropriations

 

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Welcome to the April issue of E-news. 

National News

American Farmland Trust Supports Agriculture Programs in Federal Appropriations

US CapitolCongress is working on legislation to set fiscal year 2015 (FY15) spending levels, and American Farmland Trust is making sure funding for farmland conservation, beginning farmers and farmers market programs is protected.

American Farmland Trust President and CEO Andrew McElwaine recently sent letters to the Agriculture Appropriations subcommittees urging full funding for a range of important food and agriculture programs. “With the 2014 Farm Bill recently reauthorized, it is crucial that maximum resources are consistently available to ensure effective program delivery and full program implementation,” McElwaine states in his letter. “Consistent funding is important to meet landowner and consumer needs for assistance and services.”

With Congress making major farmland conservation spending decisions now, your support of these important programs is critical. Visit American Farmland Trust’s Action Center today to show your support for strong farmland conservation funding in FY15 Agriculture Appropriations.

American Farmland Trust’s National Conference on Farmland, Food and Livable Communities—Lexington, Kentucky, October 20-22, 2014

2014NationaConference.Edit.jpgAmerican Farmland Trust has gathered Kentucky’s agricultural leaders to help design a dynamic and inspirational program for its Farmland, Food and Livable Communities conference, in Lexington, Kentucky, October 20–22, 2014.

“We’re thrilled to work with such a knowledgeable and experienced group,” says Julia Freedgood, American Farmland Trust’s assistant vice president of programs. “Each member of our Local Host Committee brings to the table on-the-ground experience in building programs or policies that support farmland protection, agricultural viability and healthy food systems, or address issues and opportunities for women landowners and the next generation of farmers and ranchers.”

Together with American Farmland Trust staff, the Local Host Committee has helped identify national keynote speakers and session presenters that will weave these themes throughout their presentations, showcasing innovative and successful strategies, and highlighting cutting edge research and real-world, replicable models.

The 2012 Census of Agriculture will be available May 2

Census of AgOn April 9, the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) announced that it will publish the full 2012 Census of Agriculture on May 2. The census collects a wealth of information about land included in farm operations, agricultural production and operator characteristics. The full report will provide information at the national, state and county levels. In the meantime, NASS has posted a series of infographics based on data from its preliminary report.

Funding Restored for Beginning Farmer Training Programs

beginning-farmers2.jpgU.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced the availability of more than $19 million in assistance for the next generation of farmers and ranchers through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP). Applications for funding are due by June 12.

“The recently passed Farm Bill made substantial reinvestment in beginning farmers and ranchers,” said Jeremy Peters, American Farmland Trust’s director of federal policy. “With the average age of farmers continuing to increase, it is good that the USDA is making this assistance available so quickly for individuals who are beginning careers in agriculture.”

Reauthorized in the 2014 Farm Bill and administered by the National Institutes of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the BFRDP is an education, training, technical assistance and outreach program to help farmers, ranchers and managers of non-industrial private forest land – specifically those who have been farming or ranching for 10 years or less and those aiming to start farming.

To learn more about the BFRDP, NIFA is hosting two webinars on April 30 and May 6 at 2:00 pm ET. The first webinar will focus on general guidelines for the program, while the second will focus on funding for socially disadvantaged and military veteran farmers and ranchers.

OUR WORK AROUND THE COUNTRY

California News

American Farmland Trust Farmland Bill Clears Legislative Hurdles in California

CA fieldThe Sustainable Farmland Strategy Act (AB 1961), co-sponsored by American Farmland Trust, was approved by both the Local Government and Agriculture Committees of the California Assembly in early April, and now heads to the Appropriations Committee. More than 200 American Farmland Trust supporters took action and responded to a recent e-mail request to contact the bill’s author, Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman, to express their support for AB 1961.

Massive Increase in Groundwater Withdrawals is Draining the Central Valley’s Aquifers

CA-farm-and-water.jpgThe proliferation of water intensive crops, such as almonds and walnuts, and improved drilling technologies are leading farmers in California’s Central Valley to tap groundwater from underground aquifers at historic rates. According to researchers at the University of California’s Center for Hydrologic Modeling, the Central Valley's underground water reserves are shrinking by 800 billion gallons a year—enough to supply every resident of California with water for seven months. California’s historic drought and a lack of regulations governing groundwater withdrawals is further exacerbating water problems in many Central Valley communities.

American Farmland Trust’s San Joaquin Valley Program Manager Daniel O’Connell commented that “growers in the region are beginning to recognize that regulation of groundwater is on the horizon. The debate is turning to whether that regulation should be local, regional or state governed.”

For information on the water conservation practices California farmers are already implementing, see American Farmland Trust’s Profiles in Stewardship.

Mid-Atlantic News

Farmland Preservation Funding Avoids the Worst But Takes a Hit

POS3Maryland’s 2014 Legislative Session ended with the state’s farmland and open space preservation funding reeling from another tough year. This year’s cuts were deep, and the plan to reimburse the program in future years faces hurdles. Strong advocacy by American Farmland Trust members and the Partners for Open Space helped avoid a proposed cap that could have diverted as much as $75 million annually in future years. “Raiding Program Open Space is unacceptable,” said Jim Baird, Mid-Atlantic director. “This pot of money, funded by Maryland residents who pay a 1/2 percent tax on real estate transfers, is dedicated to protect the land that sustains us.”

We need our working lands now more than ever to meet the demand for local food, provide thousands of jobs and add billions of dollars to the economy through agriculture. Our ability to clean and keep the Chesapeake Bay clean will depend on having well-managed farms for generations to come.

Soil Health for Wallet Wealth Project Field Day Organized by American Farmland Trust and Virginia Tech

VT-Field-day.jpgShenandoah Valley farmers and conservation professionals gathered to discuss a practice many think will lead to better yields and cleaner water. Planting a winter “cover crop” to prevent run-off is not new, but planting multiple species at once may unlock soil nutrients, hold more water and boost production of the summer cash crop. Cooperating farmers agreed to plant mixed species in designated fields where a battery of tests will measure changes below ground and impacts on the crop yield above. “As busy as they are, farmers value the insights and experience of peers, researchers and agency staff as they try to balance the potential costs and benefits,” says Jim Baird, American Farmland Trust’s Mid-Atlantic director. “On-farm demonstrations add to an already full plate, but if farmers see that the result covers the extra time and seed cost they are worth it.

Mid-West News

Women Caring for the Land Workshop

Mid-west.jpgOn March 20 and 21, American Farmland Trust convened 30 conservation professionals in Illinois and Indiana for a professional development workshop about engaging women farmland owners. The Women Food and Agriculture Network (WFAN) developed the Women Caring for the Land program and led the trainings in each state. “We know that women respond to different publications and different styles of teaching than men. We are very excited to work with the staff members of the conservation agencies and nonprofit organizations who want to increase their outreach to women landowners using the tools we’ve developed,” said Leigh Adcock, WFAN executive director. Attendees included representatives from USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA Farm Service Agency, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Soil and Water Conservation Districts of four counties and both state associations, The Land Connection and University of Illinois Extension.

New England News

New England Food Policy: Building a Sustainable Food System

NEReportCover2.jpgA new report authored by American Farmland Trust, Conservation Law Foundation and Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group analyzes policies to strengthen and expand New England’s food system. The report, New England Food Policy: Building a Sustainable Food System, is intended to guide citizens, organizations, coalitions, agencies and policymakers in identifying supportive policies and areas where new policies may be needed to help expand New England’s food production, strengthen its agricultural economy and food supply chains, and enhance multistate cooperation. “We hope this report will spark conversations about ways that government policies can be more effective in growing New England’s food resiliency,” said Cris Coffin, American Farmland Trust’s New England director. The report is available for download in whole or by section at www.newenglandfoodpolicy.org. American Farmland Trust is hosting an introductory webinar about the report on May 14 at 12:00 pm ET.

Click here to register for the New England Food Policy webinar.

Agreement on APR Legislation Improves Chances For New Farmland Protection Funding in Massachusetts Environmental Bond

MA-farm-in-springtime.jpgA recent agreement on legislative changes to the Agricultural Preservation Restriction Program (APR) has helped improve changes of passage of an Environmental Bond Bill with $30 million for the APR program. “Without this agreement, the APR funding was at significant risk,” explains American Farmland Trust New England Director Cris Coffin. “These legislative changes, which we expect will be added to the Environmental Bond Bill, are important improvements to the program.  They also enable Massachusetts Farm Bureau to support the Environmental Bond and APR funding.”

American Farmland Trust helped negotiate the agreement, which include giving the state Agricultural Lands Preservation Committee the authority to approve all program regulations and hear appeals from APR landowners who have been denied certificates of approvals or special permits. The language is likely to be added to the Environmental Bond as it moves through the House. American Farmland Trust applauds the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture for its inclusion in the bond of $30 million in APR funding and appreciates the role Senator Marc Pacheco and Representative Anne Gobi played in the legislative negotiations.   

Join Connecticut’s Working Lands Alliance for Community Investment Act Lobby Day

CIA-Invitation-2014_final-3.jpgOn April 30, Working Lands Alliance, an American Farmland Trust project, will join coalition partners to celebrate the success of the Community Investment Act (CIA). Passed in 2005 with bipartisan support, the CIA provides over $20 million in funding annually to farmland preservation, dairy support and other programs within the Department of Agriculture, as well as funding for open space conservation, historic preservation and affordable housing.

“Funding from the Community Investment Act has benefitted almost every community in Connecticut. This lobby day is an opportunity to showcase these projects and educate lawmakers about the importance of the many community-level investments funded through CIA,” said Lisa Bassani, project director for the Working Lands Alliance. The event will take place in the Old Judiciary Room of Connecticut’s State Capitol from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm. At 11:00 am, Senate President Donald Williams, who was instrumental in the legislation’s passage and remains its champion in the legislature, will hold a press conference to highlight this legislation’s key achievements.

New York News

New York State Budget Approved: Increase of $1 Million for Farmland Protection to Buffer Fort Drum

NYS-Budget-Approved.jpgNew York’s $138 billion budget for fiscal year 2014-2015 passed March 31 includes $14 million for the Farmland Protection Program, a $1 million increase. The $1 million increase will enable the state to leverage funds from the Army Compatible Use Buffer Program to purchase conservation easements on farms in the Greater Watertown-Tug Hill Region, enhancing the buffer around Fort Drum. “The land around Fort Drum is vital to the training of our nation’s military as well as the economy of the North Country, which is why we are dedicated to protecting the base,” said Governor Cuomo. This new funding positions the state to jump start the Farmland Protection Program, which has not accepted new projects since 2008. Conservation of farmland buffering Fort Drum demonstrates one of many ways farmland conservation contributes to economic development across New York state.

Crafting a Healthy Food Economy to Reduce Obesity

Crafting-a-Healthy-Food-Sys.jpgDavid Haight, New York state director for American Farmland Trust, joined Tanya Fields of BLK Projek to present Healthy Food System, Healthy People, Healthy Economies at the Healthy Community Development Conference in Rochester last month. The conference was hosted by Designing a Strong and Healthy New York (DASH NY), a coalition coordinated by the New York Academy of Medicine. “Increasing the amount of locally grown food purchased by public institutions will improve the bottom line for New York’s farmers as well as put fresh, nutritious food on the plates of students, senior citizens, patients and those in need,” said Haight. Conference participants were informed about Farm to Institution New York State (FINYS), a statewide partnership of agricultural, public health and economic development partners coordinated by American Farmland Trust to tackle systemic barriers to increasing the volume of food produced in New York that is served in public and private institutions.

Workshop Series Helps Farmers Access Farmland and Pass on the Family Farm

Workshop-Series.jpgThe Hudson Valley Farmlink Network (HVFN), a partnership of organizations dedicated to facilitating farm transfers and making farmland accessible to the next generation in the Hudson Valley, launched a series of workshops this spring. The April 8 Farm Transfer and Estate Planning workshop in Greenwich, New York, co-hosted by the Agricultural Stewardship Association and NY FarmNet/NY FarmLink was attended by forty-five participants. “I really appreciated HVFN bringing this workshop to Greenwich,” said John Hand of Hand Melon Farm. “It’s the jump start farmers need to start the planning process.” On May 6 a Farm Leasing for Farmers and Landowners workshop will be held at SUNY Orange in Newburgh. The panel will feature local farmers and landowners with leasing experience as well as legal expertise from Maryanne McGovern, Kenyon, Schwartzberg and Kenyon, PLLC, and George Lithco, Jacobowitz and Gubits, LLP. This workshop is co-hosted by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Orange County, GrowNYC, and the Orange County Land Trust.

Pacific Northwest News

No Farms, No Food Speaker Series

No-Farms-No-Food-Resize.jpgAmerican Farmland Trust hosted its fourth event in the No Farms, No Food Speaker Series on March 19. Chris Curtis of the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance presented on the meteoric rise of farmers markets in Seattle since her founding of the University District Farmers Market in 1993. American Farmland Trust President Andrew McElwaine followed with remarks about the connections between local food and local farms and the need to reinvigorate the national campaign to save farmland. Both presentations were very well received by the standing-room-only crowd at the Asgard Tavern in Fremont. "It's a powerful combination," said American Farmland Trust series coordinator Kate Delavan, "Great speakers, a great crowd, and great beer."    

Next up: Becky Warner of City Grown Seattle and Jacqueline Cramer of Beacon Food Forest speaking on Urban Agriculture from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm on Tuesday, April 29. RSVP to Kate at kdelavan@farmland.org.

Preparations for 2015 Legislative Session

WA-farmland.jpgWork has begun on a package of farm-friendly measures for the 2015 Washington legislative session. Concepts include a new funding source and a significant increase in funding levels for conservation easements, state matching funds for conservation projects on farms, a statewide farmland mitigation policy, and a new program of technical and financial assistance for young and beginning farmers. According to Dennis Canty, American Farmland Trust Pacific Northwest regional director, "We did pretty well with six weeks of preparation before the 2013 session and we're hoping to do even better this year with six months to get prepared." Look for information on how to get involved in developing and supporting the package in the next few months.

Ten Big Ideas for Washington State

fruit-farmers-market.jpgAmerican Farmland Trust is participating in the American Planning Association (APA) Washington Chapter’s “Ten Big Ideas” initiative for Washington’s future. The initiative aims to make far-reaching change on a variety of major issues, including sustainable agriculture and healthy food systems in both rural and urban areas. The rural working group is currently examining how the state Growth Management Act is working to preserve farmland in a handful of Washington counties. Working groups are intended to move this effort from Big Ideas into action, including providing tools for planners, identifying needed legislative changes and building support for planning for agriculture. Results of the “Ten Big Ideas” initiative will be presented at the Washington state APA conference in October.

 

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