Every year, America loses 1.2 million acres of farmland - an area twice the size of Rhode Island - much of it our best and most productive farmland near where most Americans live. In Massachusetts and across the nation, AFT is a vital link between farmers, conservationists and policymakers, working to protect the best farmland , direct growth away from agricultural resources, provide healthy local food to all citizens, and help communities sustain local farms and farming.
Farmland Trust and Land for Good’s Farmland
Advisors program is educating agriculture service providers to help the next generation
of farmers access land and help farm families facilitate the transfer to
the next generation. Farmland Advisors started in February with a webinar for
the program’s 80
participants, from New York and New England. The program is funded by a grant from the Northeast SARE Professional Development Program
and support from a Farm Credit
Northeast AgEnhancment grant. Participants represent land trusts,
beginning farmer organizations, extension offices, lending institutions and
local and state agencies.
retreat organized by American Farmland Trust brought together more than 50 of
the region’s leading farmland protection practitioners, including state agency
staff, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationists and
program managers, and land trust representatives, to brainstorm farmland protection
challenges and strategies and discuss the federal Farm and Ranch Lands
Protection Program (FRPP). Joining the group were New Hampshire Commissioner of
Agriculture Lorraine Merrill, Connecticut Commissioner of Agriculture Steve
Reviczky, and three guests from the national USDA-NRCS office, including
Richard Sims, NRCS Regional Conservationist for the Northeast, and Jeremy
Stone, the national FRPP program manager. Cris Coffin, American Farmland Trust
New England Director, notes that AFT is working to make this retreat an annual
event. “This kind of regional shoptalk is invaluable both in helping to
strengthen relationships and in advancing farmland protection innovations around
the region,” remarks Coffin.
of farms to a new generation is one of the biggest challenges facing agriculture
in New York and New England. Farmland Advisors is a training program to help agriculture and
conservation professionals become an effective resource in helping farmers and
farmland owners as they seek access to land and navigate the complexity of farm
transfers. “Participants will learn about everything from farm succession
planning to farm linking, lease options and land conservation as a farm
transfer strategy,” said Diane Held, Senior New York Field Manager for
American Farmland Trust. “Land access and availability are increasingly
impacting farms and food systems in the region,” added New England Director Cris
Coffin, “Working with professionals across the Northeast will help to meet
these challenges at the state level.” Applications
are now being accepted. The deadline to apply is October 31.
vibrant and viable food system in New England requires a supportive public
policy environment. For this reason,
American Farmland Trust is teaming up with the Conservation Law Foundation and
the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group to identify the policy
levers that will support improved farm profitability, expanded food production
and the agricultural infrastructure needed to improve regional food
resiliency. Drawing upon expertise and
experience of leaders and practitioners across New England, this two-year project will focus on federal, state and regional policy arenas, analyzing policy
barriers and gaps in five key areas and recommending where change is most
needed, at what level and scale, and what kinds of advocacy might be most
To help determine what land is and is not being protected through the Massachusetts Agricultural Preservation Restriction program, we teamed up with the Massachusetts Farm Bureau to survey Farm Bureau members. More than 90% of the respondents had not applied for the program in the past five years. Land ineligibility; concern over program changes or possible constraints on the land once enrolled; and a sense that the program is unable to pay what the restriction is worth were among the top reasons farmers shied away from the farmland preservation program. These and other research findings will be presented to the state Agricultural Lands Preservation Committee in late November.
Find More on MA's APR Program at our MA Farmland Protection Tools page.
Massachusetts Policy Update
We recently joined legislators and other organizations to testify in support of changes to the Community Preservation Act, the Commonwealth’s program that supports community-level land protection, affordable housing and historic preservation efforts. The proposed legislation would ensure that participating communities receive at least 75 percent of what they raise locally in state matching funds. The Community Preservation Act has been a critical source of supplemental funding for farmland protection projects in Massachusetts by helping communities raise the money needed to protect more than 38 farmland parcels through the state’s Agricultural Preservation Restriction program.
FOcus on Massachusetts
A Northeast grocery chain has become the first retailer to join forces with the New England Dairy Promotion Board and New England Family Dairy Farms Cooperative to bring the concept of “fair trade” milk to consumers. Hannaford's 71 stores will promote the benefits of local dairy farms—including stewardship of the region’s farmland—and offer shoppers an opportunity to directly support dairy farmers through the “Keep Local Farms” dairy campaign. Cris Coffin, American Farmland Trust’s New England Director, is excited by the Hannaford announcement: “Educating shoppers about the value of our region’s dairy farmers will hopefully encourage them to donate to the campaign and help farmers receive a better price for their milk.”
New England Field Office
Cris Coffin, New England States Director
1 Short Street, Suite 2
Northampton, MA 01060-3952
(p)413-586-9330 ext. 29