American Farmland Trust and USDA’s NRCS Announce Agreement to Increase Conservation on Agricultural Land in Massachusetts

New partnership will help an estimated 750 farmers protect soil, water and wildlife habitat on 2,500 acres of farmland 

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. — Today, American Farmland Trust, the organization behind the national movement No Farms No Food®, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service announce a two-year, $900,000 cooperative agreement to provide conservation planning assistance to farmers and other landowners across Massachusetts.

Working directly with farmers and landowners, AFT staff will help them evaluate their land and operations with conservation in mind, plan for and implement practices that improve soil health and water quality, protect wildlife habitat and advance long-term sustainability. NRCS will provide financial support and day-to-day oversight.

Conservation planning and assistance is crucial to the further growth of sustainable agricultural systems in the commonwealth. AFT and NRCS have done much for conservation on agricultural lands across America, often in partnership. Now the organization and the agency will come together to help Massachusetts agricultural producers address local conservation priorities through federal Farm Bill conservation programs.

“Farmers care deeply about their land and want to do what’s right by it. They know it’s in their long-term interest to follow practices that benefit the environment, increase productivity and reduce inputs,” said Nathan L’Etoile, AFT New England director.

He continued, “However, farmers operate on slim margins and have not always been quick to adopt these practices because of perceived risk. This partnership will spur adoption of conservation practices by compensating farmers for the environmental services they provide, services that are needed to help restore our planet.”

Demonstrating the value of implementing conservation practices on farms, AFT recently released the results of its USDA NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant work, “Quantifying the Economic and Environmental Benefits of Soil Health.” The four case studies share the successes of farmers who invested in practices like no-till, strip-till, cover crops, nutrient management, conservation cover, compost application, and mulching. Farmers who participated in the study improved yield and reduced input costs, including savings on fertilizer, pesticides, machinery, fuel, and labor. They also increased the return on investment at the same time. Additionally, all four farmers saw improved water quality and climate outcomes as measured by USDA’s Nutrient Tracking and COMET-FARM tools. The partnership in Massachusetts will help farmers and landowners achieve similar outcomes.

 “We’re looking forward to providing enhanced customer service and more conservation on the land through this partnership with American Farmland Trust,” said Dan Wright, NRCS state conservationist for Massachusetts. “NRCS is a federal agency that works hand in hand with people across the nation to improve and protect soil, water, and other natural resources. AFT will help us further our mission here in the Bay State.”

To participate, please contact your local NRCS Service Center.  For help locating the office that serves you, click here, or call 413-253-4350.

 

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American Farmland Trust is the only national organization that takes a holistic approach to agriculture, focusing on the land itself, the agricultural practices used on that land, and the farmers and ranchers who do the work. AFT launched the conservation agriculture movement and continues to raise public awareness through our No Farms, No Food message. Since our founding in 1980, AFT has helped permanently protect over 6.5 million acres of agricultural lands, advanced environmentally-sound farming practices on millions of additional acres and supported thousands of farm families.