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Help Protect Farmland in California, Join AFT’s National Agriculture Land Network Today

 

Are you working to save farmland and ranchland in California? If so, American Farmland Trust’s new National Agricultural Land Network is here to help!

Geared to state and local farmland and ranchland protection programs, state departments of agriculture and conservation, county planning entities, public agencies, quasi-public entities, and private land trusts engaged in agricultural land protection statewide, the NALN is intended to grow the collective capacity of practitioners engaged in agricultural land protection and planning to save the land that sustains us.

The NALN formally launches in May, following the release of AFT’s groundbreaking “Farms Under Threat: The State of the States” report. Until then, the network is focused on providing information and gaining feedback from California practitioners around this year’s implementation of the federal Agricultural Conservation Easement Program-Agricultural Land Easements and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program.

“By showcasing successes, nurturing policy and program innovations, and providing opportunities for peer learning, we hope to generate new energy and momentum toward the cause of agricultural land protection in California and across the United States,” explains Cris Coffin, AFT’s senior policy advisor who heads the network.

AFT is the nation’s first farmland conservation organization and has helped to create many of the nation’s agricultural land trusts and more than 20 public agricultural land protection programs. For 40 years, we have advanced public policy at federal, state, and local levels to protect farmland, promote sound farming practices, and keep farmers on the land.

Last August, AFT held a day-long Land Protection Forum in Sacramento with land trusts from across the state. Discussions included farmland affordability issues as well as innovative conservation tools, such as sustainable management practices, according to Kara Heckert, AFT’s California regional director.

“It was a good mix of folks,” Kara reports. “There was everyone from small land trusts supporting new farmers to larger land trusts like California Rangeland Trust. Regardless of their size, these practitioners face common challenges. In fact, these problems are similar around the nation, although they may have a California slant to them.”

The Ag Land Protection Forum helped to identify issues that the NALN plans to elevate and help California practitioners address. These include:

  • New Farmers: How do we ensure agricultural land gets into the hands of the next generation? “Even California’s protected farmland is often still unaffordable for many young and beginning farmers,” reminds Cris.
  • Conservation: Once farmland is protected how can we encourage more conservation on that land? What technical support or financial incentives for landowners and farmers should be offered? “Land trusts can play an important role in encouraging landowners to consider additional conservation practices,” Cris adds.
  • Easements: Can easements be flexible enough to address the future needs of agriculture? “The agricultural land protection community is grappling with easements that can withstand the evolution of California agriculture—and its climate. There’s a lot of interest in rethinking easement amendments,” Cris says. “This is an area where we think the NALN can be helpful.”

Looking ahead, AFT is rolling up its sleeves to address the needs of both California agricultural land protection practitioners as well as planners. Several resources are available at AFT’s Farmland Information Center, the nation’s largest collection of information on farmland and ranchland protection and stewardship, which is supported by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, or NRCS.

Among these resources are several related to ACEP-ALE, including a downloadable fact sheet about the program showing requirements and funding by region. Also available is a webinar recording discussing NRCS’ plans for this year’s implementation of ACEP-ALE. There also are plans to release technical papers on buy-protect-sell, along with additional farmland protection documents and policy updates. Meanwhile, regional and national events are under discussion, based on network members’ needs.

“We’re excited to support the strong farmland protection work being done in the nation’s largest agricultural state,” Cris says. “This network will allow us to showcase this progress to other states, as well as elevate the national discussion around farmland protection.”

If your organization, land trust, agency, or program would like to become a NALN member or collaborator, please indicate your interest here. AFT will be back in touch with a formal membership form and a short survey to inform NALN programming and priorities. Membership in the NALN is free.

About the Author
Teresa O'Connor

California Communications and Outreach Manager

toconnor@farmland.org

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