In 1969, the Maryland legislature, led by Senator Bill James from Harford County and Senator Jim Clark from Howard County, created Program Open Space. A masterpiece of sensible yet visionary leadership, Program Open Space collects a fraction (1/2 of 1%) of the transfer tax paid when Maryland residents sell a home or piece of property. The money goes into a DEDICATED fund to protect farmland, high-value natural lands, and parks and recreation needs in every county in the state.
The program is beautiful in its simplicity. It keeps pace with state growth and development while it tied together a strong coalition of rural and urban residents, farmers, and conservationists. Program Open Space makes the statement — for some land, the highest and best use is NOT development. Program Open Space is a solemn promise to our children’s children that parks and open land will exist for their children. Over the years, this program gained national renown. Continue reading →
Readers of this column know that AFT played a major role in the 2014 Farm Bill. Our work helped to safeguard the largest federal investment in private lands conservation.
Mandatory Conservation Funding
The Farm Bill eliminated nearly a dozen conservation programs and reduced mandatory funding by $6 billion, a major cut. Despite these reductions, conservation spending is under attack this year from multiple fronts: Continue reading →
It’s that time of the year again, when you and your loved ones pick the perfect tree to decorate and celebrate the Christmas holiday.
This year, like previous years, my friends and I went to select our trees. But unlike years past, this time we decided to cut our own trees instead of buying them at the grocery store. Having worked for American Farmland Trust for close to two years, it was important to me that we spend our money on a local farm. I did some research and found a family-owned farm not too far from Washington, D.C., that grows “cut your own” Christmas trees. Continue reading →
As a soil scientist I’m excited about an international day to celebrate the importance of soil. American Farmland Trust focuses on soil everyday: saving the best soils from poorly planned development, providing access to these soils for the next generation of farmers, and promoting sound farming practices on the soils so they can provide nature’s benefits.
Soils as a natural resource
For too long soils have been the Rodney Dangerfield of natural resources, treated like a second hand resource by environmentalists and conservationists alike. Seems like water, air, and wildlife got all the great press, regulatory protection, love and respect. What about the soil’s ability to provide food? Help create the flavor of a great wine or Juicy peach? To store water and protect against flooding? Continue reading →
AFT Supports Vision for Cover Crops and Soil Health
American Farmland Trust has joined a diverse coalition of agriculture and conservation groups in delivering ”A Common Vision Statement on Cover Crops and Soil Health” to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to urge further work on cover crops and soil health across relevant department agencies and major program areas.
“Cover crops and soil health have been capturing the attention and involvement of farmers and organizations all across the U.S.,” stated the groups. “These practices represent a systems-based approach to enhancing crop production and profitability, protection of soil and water resources, and land stewardship.” Continue reading →
Yesterday was the deadline for organizations submitting Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) proposals to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). American Farmland Trust is leading two proposals that were submitted. If accepted, the proposals will result in 5-year projects in their respective geographic areas.
One proposal is being led by AFT’s Midwest office and will address water quality degradation from non-point agricultural sources on private lands in Illinois, a primary resource concern for the state and the Mississippi River Basin. The project would be one of the first efforts in the state to begin implementation of the “Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy.” Continue reading →
The House of Representatives and the Senate this week passed a continuing resolution (CR) to fund government agencies through December 11. Because Congress failed to pass any appropriations bills before the end of fiscal year 2014, a CR was necessary to pass to avoid a government shutdown. The CR passed in the House and Senate maintains spending at current levels. Continue reading →
Congress Returns, Readies Continuing Resolution through December 11
As Congress returned this week from August recess, the House of Representatives began the process of approving a continuing resolution (CR) to extend government spending beyond September 30 which marks the end of fiscal year 2014. Government agencies are currently only funded through the end of the fiscal year, so a CR is necessary to avoid a government shutdown. The CR would maintain spending at current levels.
At this point, passage of the CR is expected to be a formality. The House Rules committee was expected to review and approve the CR earlier this week, however that consideration has been postponed until the week of September 15. Approval by the House Rules committee would clear the way for the CR to be considered on the House floor before proceeding to the Senate and finally being signed by the President. Continue reading →
Note—American Farmland Trust’s Farm Policy Roundup will not be published next week in observance of the Labor Day holiday. The next edition will be published on Friday, September 5.
American Farmland Trust Conference Is Just Around the Corner, Don’t Miss Out!
Did you know American Farmland Trust’s National Farmland, Food and Livable Communities conference in Lexington, KY begins in less than two months? We have an exciting line up of workshops in store for you that will explore important topics ranging from farmland protection policy and community food security to farmland succession and the next generation of farmers.
And keynote speakers will share their experiences and expertise on compelling issues in farming and food. Just this week, conference keynote speaker and photographer Jim Richardson was featured discussing his work in National Geographic’s Proof series. Hear his discussion and have a preview of just part of what is in store for you. Don’t delay–early-bird registration ends September 1.
Congress Enters Recess without Finishing Appropriations, Tax Extenders
Congress begins a month-long recess today, leaving many issues to address when legislators return in September. Legislation left unfinished includes fiscal year 2015 agriculture appropriations and permanent extension of the enhanced conservation easement deduction which expired last year. American Farmland Trust worked with our allies to advance these priorities. Together, both pieces of legislation are essential for continued protection of our nation’s working farm and ranch land. Continue reading →