Federal Policy - American Farmland Trust

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Federal Policy

From our headquarters in Washington, D.C., AFT advocates for farmers, ranchers, and their land in the halls of Congress and in federal agencies and departments.

Since its founding in 1980, AFT has played a significant role as a bridge-builder and convener in Farm Bill debates, working to find common ground between environmental and agricultural groups. A trusted partner, we work on both sides of the aisle, in committee rooms and personal offices.

We educate members of Congress about the urgent need to protect farmland, increase conservation for healthier soils and cleaner waters, and support new and next-generation farmers. We research and advocate for innovative policy solutions. We work with Agriculture Department agencies to ensure conservation programs are implemented as envisioned and to the benefit of both farmers and the environment.

And we do that work with the help of food and farmland advocates like you.

Our Recent Advocacy Successes

Much of American agricultural policy is set in the Farm Bill, a wide-ranging piece of legislation that is passed about once every five years.

AFT President John Piotti testifies about the importance of AFT’s 2018 Farm Bill priorities before the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry in February 2017.

In the 2018 Farm Bill, AFT’s work helped to increase funding for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program—which funds permanent farmland protection and wetland protection—by $200 million per year. This amounts to a $2 billion increase over the next decade. AFT also supported policy changes to measure environmental improvements in conservation programs, to fund programs to improve local food marketing and beginning farmer training, to assist farmers in addressing land tenure issues, and more.

In addition, AFT led partners around the country in advocacy actions, from participating in House Agriculture Committee listening sessions, to signing onto joint letters, to visiting Congressional offices.

Press Releases

Read our recent statements on federal policy.

Read our Policy Updates

AFT strives to find common-ground and commonsense solutions to save the land that sustains us. If you believe that it is critical to protect farmland, promote environmentally sound farming practices, and keep farmers on the land, we want to help you make your voice heard.


If you have questions about AFT's policy work, please reach out to our Federal Policy team.

AFT’s History of Federal Policy Impact

The Farmland Protection Policy Act, included in the 1981 Farm Bill, requires an annual report about the conversion of farmland and ranchland from federal projects to be completed by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and authorizes the Farmland Information Center.

The 1985 Farm Bill was the first to feature a separate conservation title focusing on environmental sustainability on farms. Our report “Soil Conservation in America: What Do We Have to Lose?” helped lead to the creation of the federal Conservation Reserve Program, which retires fragile lands from production, within the conservation title.

In the 1996 Farm Bill, AFT’s efforts led to the creation of the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program—known today as the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program.

In the 2008 Farm Bill, AFT played a critical role in many important improvements for conservation, renewable energy, the farm safety net, and expansion of local foods. The 2008 bill was the first to provide more than $1 billion in new funding for farmers who grow specialty crops (fruits, vegetables, and nuts), while increasing programs that support local farmers, farmers markets, fresh fruits and vegetables in schools, and access to healthy foods for seniors and low-income citizens.

In the 2014 Farm Bill, AFT championed the creation of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, an innovative approach to federal conservation programs. In the past, USDA’s conservation focus was mainly on individual farms. RCPP enables multiple farms and landowners within a defined region to participate in larger-scale programs and achieve greater impact. Additionally, AFT helped achieve historic reform by relinking crop insurance premium subsidies to conservation compliance for the first time since 1996, thereby ensuring that farmers who receive these subsidies protect highly erodible lands and wetlands.

As part of these 2014 efforts, AFT members and supporters flooded Capitol Hill with more than 45,000 emails in support of conservation priorities.