June E-News: What's Next with the Farm Bill and Kicking Off the I Love My Farmers Market Celebration

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Welcome to the June issue of E-news. Click here to view a version of E-news on the web

With the Farm Bill Complete in the House, What’s Next for Conservation?

Three generations of farmers in a potato field

On June 10, the Senate approved its version of the 2013 Farm Bill, the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013, by a bipartisan vote of 66 to 27. The Senate Farm Bill re-links conservation compliance with crop insurance premium assistance, a feature supported by a coalition of 32 conservation and commodity groups, and one that American Farmland Trust helped develop.

The House of Representatives was expected to pass their version of the bill today, but it failed by a vote of 195-234. This complicates the outlook for completion of a five-year Farm Bill. American Farmland Trust and our supporters continue to work hard to pass a comprehensive farm bill that provides a strong farm and natural resource safety net, including relinking conservation compliance to crop insurance premium assistance, reinvests in farmland conservation programs, and strengthens access to local, healthy food choices.

Act Now. American Farmland Trust needs your help to ensure the Farm Bill continues moving and does not stall! 

Introducing the I Love My Farmers Market Celebration

I Love My Farmers Market e-newsThis summer we mean business – local farm business! American Farmland Trust’s I Love My Farmers Market Celebration is raising national awareness about local farmers markets and family farmers—one pledge at a time. Throughout the celebration, consumers will pledge to spend $10 at their local farmers markets to help put more money directly in the pockets of family farmers. Pledges can be cast once a day for multiple markets. By pledging each week, you will be entered into a random drawing to win a free No Farms No Food® hat for you and for your favorite farmer. Please visit www.lovemyfarmersmarket.org today to learn more, make your pledge, and help raise awareness about the vital link between shoppers and family farmers growing our food.

New American Farmland Trust Report Examines Community Food Systems


What does it take to make systematic change in America’s farm and food system? To find out, American Farmland Trust reviewed 134 food policy councils and food system plans to see if these stakeholder-driven approaches lead to state and local policy that strengthen community food systems. Thanks to support from the Healthy Farms, Healthy People Coalition, American Farmland Trust just released its report, Supporting Agricultural Viability and Community Food Security: A Review of Food Policy Councils and Food System Plans, which finds that both approaches can make incremental improvements and lead to public policy changes, especially at local levels. Learn more and access the full report at farmland.org


Communities Save Money By Saving Farmland

Tractor in field surrounded by sprawlMuch of the farmland that is lost to development around the country, and in California, is turned into sprawling residential developments for a growing national population. While many communities argue that converting farmland to municipal uses generates millions of dollars in tax revenue, studies have found that conserving farmland is actually a far more cost-effective measure. A new study released recently by Smart Growth America, titled Building Better Budgets: A National Examination of the Fiscal Benefits of Smart Growth Development, confirms this assumption and shows that more compact, efficient (aka Smart Growth) development can be as much as 38 percent less expensive than traditional, suburban development. "The less farmland we convert to accommodate the same number of people and jobs, the less it will cost us to provide public services like roads, water and sewer systems, and police and fire protection to our communities," explains American Farmland Trust California Director Edward Thompson, Jr. Learn more about how communities can save money by saving farmland.

Mid-Atlantic Legislators Key to Passage of a Farm Bill

Mid-Atlantic-drop.jpgThe largest piece of national legislation impacting farm and food policy, and Congress’ biggest conservation bill, is being debated right now. The Farm Bill, which the House of Representatives has been considering this week but ultimately failed to pass, will have huge implications for efforts in the Mid-Atlantic region and Chesapeake Bay Watershed to improve water quality, protect farmland and increase the supply of local, healthy food. As Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA), member of the House Agriculture Committee and Chair of the Conservation Subcommittee, remarked earlier this spring, “Conservation programs are lifelines for farmers in my home state of Pennsylvania and many other communities across the Mid-Atlantic region, in meeting cleanup efforts set for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.” The 37 representatives in the House from Bay states—Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New York—continue to play a critical role and need to hear from you. Reach out to your legislators to ensure Congress includes strong farmland conservation measures and ultimately passes a comprehensive five-year farm bill.

American Farmland Trust’s Mid-Atlantic Director Joins Maryland Rural Legacy Board Advisory Committee

Jimmy-&-da-Gov-drop.jpgJim Baird, Mid-Atlantic Director for American Farmland Trust, has recently been designated by Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley for a three-year term with the state Rural Legacy Advisory Committee. Maryland’s Rural Legacy Program provides funding to protect large, contiguous tracts of land, especially farms and forests, to discourage sprawl development and protect areas for future generations to enjoy. The committee provides strategic recommendations to the Rural Legacy Board, which implements the Maryland progam. Rural Legacy complements the State Agricultural Preservation program, which mainly addresses high quality agricultural soils, by focusing on farms with strong environmental and water quality values. The program ultimately provides farmers and landowners an alternative to developing or subdividing their land to help protect Maryland’s farmland. Congratulations to Jim on this notable recognition! 

Outreach to Women Farmland Owners Continues in the Midwest

2013 Bureau County Illinois Women LandownersAmerican Farmland Trust’s Midwest office continues to reach out to women who own farmland. On June 12,  a women-only learning circle in Princeton, Illinois, one of several informal gatherings convened by American Farmland Trust, Prairie Rivers and the Women, Food and Agriculture Network, brought women landowners in Illinois together with other women who can help them. Twenty-five women landowners and owner-operators attended; collectively they own or operate about 9,000 acres of farmland in four Illinois counties. Discussion centered on ways to prevent soil erosion and improve soil health, ways to manage hay and pasture lands, how to determine cash or crop-share rental rates, and ways to work effectively with tenants to improve conservation on the land. The afternoon field tour featured examples of practices on nearby farms. Inspired by the session, one of participants concluded, “Ladies, it’s time to get more involved, know our USDA staff and work with our tenants to place conservation on the land that we own.” Learn more about American Farmland Trust’s work to empower women landowners

Assessing the Economic Impact of Local Food Production for Kane County, Illinois

Farmer holding vegetablesAmerican Farmland Trust has been helping the Kane County, Illinois, Health and Community Services Departments with a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) to review the potential impacts of amending the county’s farmland protection ordinance to make land available for local food production. American Farmland Trust conducted research, reviewed the ordinance, identified indicators and engaged Dave Swenson from Iowa State University, to assess the potential economic contribution of increasing fruit and vegetable production in the county. “This work is a valuable lesson in the changing demands on farmland protection programs,” explains Julia Freedgood, Managing Director of Farmland and Community Initiatives at American Farmland Trust. The research found 2,157 acres of a representative sample of 24 crops could serve about 445,000 people in the greater Chicago metro region, contribute approximately $15 million in annual economic activity and create more than 100 new jobs. Visit the HIA website to access the Kane County Health Impact Assessment Report

Roots for Improvement: Educational Opportunity on Cover Crops in Illinois

Winter wheat in spring fieldInterested in cover crops and soil health? American Farmland Trust is helping sponsor an educational event in Champaign County, Illinois, so mark your calendar for June 28 from 8 am to noon. “Some of the big names in Midwest cover crops are coming to share their information,” explained Mike Baise, American Farmland Trust’s Midwest Director. Presentation topics include Soil Health, Cover Crops 101 and Chemical Effects on Cover Crops. Three CEUs have been applied for, and Seed Dealers and Custom Applicators will be available for direct personal attention and show you what they have to offer. This meeting will be held in the Champaign County Farm Bureau and University of Illinois Extension Building at 801 N County Fair Drive in Champaign. Please register by June 25 with the Champaign County Soil and Water Conservation District. A $10 registration includes handouts and lunch. 

Join American Farmland Trust at the Illinois Farm Progress Show

Farm Progress Show Illinois logoAmerican Farmland Trust will be participating in the Partners in Conservation tent on the grounds of the Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Illinois, August 27 to 29, 2013. The Farm Progress Show is the nation’s leading outdoor farm show and features the most extensive state-of-the art information and technology available for today’s agricultural producers. The country’s top agribusinesses, plus many regional and local manufacturers and suppliers, are regular exhibitors. “Come by the tent and pick up a No Farms No Food® bumper sticker, and we will talk about American Farmland Trust programs in the region,” says Mike Baise, Midwest Director. 

Successful Legislative Session Wraps Up in Connecticut

wOn June 5, Connecticut ended its 2013 legislative session with some big wins for farmland preservation. The bill to preserve 825 acres of state-owned farmland at the Southbury Training School passed unanimously in both the House and Senate and will be signed by Governor Dannel Malloy. This bill was a top priority of the Working Lands Alliance (WLA), a project of American Farmland Trust. WLA also successfully defended the Community Investment Act (CIA) from a proposed raid of $4 million in funds. Even better, the final budget actually added a significant new source of revenue to CIA, increasing the total funds available to support farmland protection efforts. Lastly, Connecticut’s Farmland Preservation Program, thanks to WLA's strong advocacy work, will receive another $20 million in total bond funds over the next two fiscal years. All in all, the 2013 session was a big success! 

Regional Convening Considers New England’s Farmland Future  

Rows of crops on small New England farmLast month, in partnership with Land For Good and in collaboration with the six New England state Departments of Agriculture and state USDA-NRCS offices, American Farmland Trust convened 85 of the region’s farm and conservation leaders in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to discuss New England’s farmland future. Topics ranged from strengthening farmland protection tools, to expanding farmland access for new and established farmers, to improving farmland resiliency in the face of climate change. Participants explored opportunities for collective action and utilized a series of maps, produced in collaboration with the Massachusetts USDA-NRCS, to explore trends in farmland protection, development and conservation. “The convening helped identify some important opportunities and challenges around the region,” said Cris Coffin, American Farmland Trust’s New England Director. “We hope these materials and findings will help inform farmland-related work around the region and spur new projects and collective action.”  

Vermont Housing and Conservation Board Celebrates 25 Years, Honors Farmland Protection Hero

Jersey cows in Vermont farm fieldA national leader in farmland protection efforts, the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB), celebrated its 25-year anniversary on June 11 by honoring several “housing and conservation” heroes. Among the honorees was Alex Wyle, retiring Agricultural Director for the Vermont Land Trust. American Farmland Trust’s New England Director, Cris Coffin, is thrilled that VHCB chose to honor this farmland protection expert. “Alex has been a tremendously valuable partner to and collaborator with American Farmland Trust over the past 20 years,” says Coffin. “She has not only helped protect 190,000 acres of Vermont farmland but has been a national thought leader around farmland access and affordability.” Vermont leads the country in its ratio of farmland protection to conversion, permanently protecting more than 3 acres of agricultural land for every acre developed.       

True Grit: Diane Held Featured in Edible Buffalo’s “Women in Agriculture” Issue

Edible Buffalo cover for Diane HeldThe spring issue of Edible Buffalo spotlighting “Women in Agriculture” includes a profile of American Farmland Trust’s Senior New York Field Manager Diane Held, who manages projects to improve access to farmland for the state’s next generation of farmers. After graduating from Cornell with a degree in agriculture and receiving a master’s in environmental studies at the University of Buffalo, She learned first-hand about farming by leasing land to operate a 30-cow dairy. Her struggles as a young farmer were not in vain as she now puts lessons learned to help the next generation of farmers get started. “It’s not easy by any stretch of the imagination,” said Diane about starting a farm. “What’s different now is there’s a lot more consumer interest in local foods and that works to the beginning farmer’s advantage.” 

New Reports Connect Protecting Farmland with Local Food and Beginning Farmers

Pastured chickens in fieldThree reports have just been released pointing to farmland conservation as essential to local food security and helping the next generation of farmers begin farming. Securing Fresh, Local Food for New York City and the Hudson Valley: A Foodshed Conservation Plan for the Region, recently released by Scenic Hudson, provides a strategic approach to conserving agricultural land near New York City. Farmland Access and Tenure Innovations, a report by the Land Access Project Task Force, analyzes  programs and policies to increase beginning farmers’ access to farmland and identifies strategies to encourage public and private landowners to sell or lease their land to beginning farmers. The task force also produced Does the Option at Agricultural Value Protect Farmland for Beginning Farmers, a policy analysis of an optional legal requirement that farmland under conservation easement be sold at its agricultural value rather than market value, ensuring the affordability of protected land for farmers, particularly beginning farmers. Download the full reports at farmland.org/newyork

On the Road Around Puget Sound

Holstein cows graze with Mount Rainer in the backgroundDennis Canty, Pacific Northwest Director for American Farmland Trust, and other regional staff are meeting with farm advocates in all of the counties around Puget Sound in June and July as part of a strategic effort to improve planning and zoning for agriculture in the region. “These meetings present a great opportunity to discuss local issues and concerns that impact farmland conservation and to frame our technical assistance program,” explains Canty. This work is part of American Farmland Trust’s Farmland Forever campaign, which aims to protect 70,000 additional acres of Puget Sound region farmland in large lot exclusive agricultural zoning in the next five years.

The Waiting Game for Farmland Protection Funding in Washington State

Washington State capitolThe Washington State Legislature went into its second special earlier this week and the funding level for farmland protection is still in doubt. Depending on how the budget plays out, farmland projects could get anywhere from $0 to $6.5 million. "After more than six months working on farmland funding, it's frustrating to see this as one of the last issues to be addressed this legislative session," said Dennis Canty, American Farmland Trust’s Pacific Northwest Director. Act now! There is still time to take action in support of farmland protection funding!

American Farmland Trust Visits Farmers Markets and Festivals in the Pacific Northwest

Jackie Dagger, American Farmland Trust PNW OfficeJackie Dagger, a recent addition to the Pacific Northwest office, will be making the rounds at farmers markets and festivals this summer to introduce American Farmland Trust and our work with farms, farmers and local food in the region. Stop by and say hello to Jackie if you see her at your local market. And don’t forget to pledge to celebrate your favorite farmers markets this summer.

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