Northampton, Massachusetts, November 5, 2007—Land conservation organizations applauded the Patrick administration for its decision to increase funding for the state’s Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) Program by $5 million this year. The administration’s plan to spend
$12.6 million on the popular farmland protection program was announced recently by Acting Commissioner of Agriculture Scott Soares at a statewide meeting of land trusts working on farmland protection projects.
“We commend the Governor for recognizing that farmland protection is vital to the economic and environmental health of many of our communities,” the groups state in a letter sent today to Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Ian Bowles. “Preserving local food production capacity is also increasingly important to consumers concerned about the quality and safety of their food, global warming and food miles traveled.”
The APR Program has protected approximately 60,000 acres of the Commonwealth’s most productive farmland since 1977. Over the past five years, the state has spent an average of
$7.8 million per year on the program. The administration’s proposed $12.6 million funding for the program this year is exceeded only by spending on the program in 2001, at $14.9 million (adjusted for inflation), and is higher than the next best funding year for the program in 2003,
at $11.1 million (adjusted for inflation).
According to American Farmland Trust (AFT), increased spending on the APR program is needed in part to combat rising farm real estate values, which have nearly doubled in Massachusetts in the last ten years and are the second highest in the country. The state's investment in the APR program also helps to ensure that federal matching funds for farmland protection, which averaged $3.6 million a year over the last five years, continue to flow into Massachusetts.
The APR program is a voluntary program popular among farmers who want to ensure that the land they work remains in agriculture for generations to come, while accessing some of the equity in their land that can help to finance retirement or expand their farm businesses. As Ken Girouard, whose family is currently working to protect their 296-acre, fourth-generation dairy farm in Winchendon, Mass., through the APR program recently noted: “We want our future generations to have land to walk on and a chance to see what open land is. If we don’t do this, we will most likely have more homes being built on the land and this puts a burden on our community in many ways.”
Conservation organizations that signed the letter to Secretary Bowles include: American Farmland Trust, Berkshire Natural Resources Council, Franklin Land Trust, Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition, Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust, Sheffield Land Trust, The Kestrel Trust, The Trustees of Reservations, and Trust for Public Land.
***Note to Editors---Additional Press Contacts:
Cris Coffin, American Farmland Trust, 413-586-9330 ext.29
Tad Ames, Berkshire Natural Resources Council, 413-499-0596
Rich Hubbard, Franklin Land Trust, 413-625-9151
Bernie McHugh, Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition, 978-443-5588
Pam Kimball-Smith, Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust, 978-248-2043 ext.13
Kathy Orlando, Sheffield Land Trust, 413-229-0234
Kristin DeBoer, The Kestrel Trust, 413-695-3468
Peg Wheeler, The Trustees of Reservations, 978-840-4446 ext.1916
Clem Clay, The Trust for Public Land, 413-584-6686
Visit American Farmland Trust’s Farm and Food Policy Campaign Web site for more information on how we’re working to strengthen the future of American agriculture and ensure fresh, healthy, local food for generations to come. Learn more about AFT’s Steward of the Land Award and nominate an exemplary farm or ranch family for this annual $10,000 conservation award by December 3, 2007.