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.