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Farm Policy Roundup—July 25, 2014

Appropriations, Tax Extenders Update

iStock_000000142578MediumCongress enters its final week of legislative session on July 28 before entering a month-long recess August 1. While key votes have been taken in recent weeks to approve multiple appropriations bills and to extend important tax provisions, it appears unlikely that further Congressional action will occur this summer.
This week, Congressional leaders announced intent to pass a short term funding bill, known as a continuing resolution (CR), through mid-November, to keep the federal government operational into fiscal year 2015 (FY15). The FY15 Agriculture Appropriations bill has not been considered on the floor of either chamber. The House voted last week to permanently extend important charitable and conservation tax incentives, including the Enhanced Conservation Easement Deduction, however it is unlikely the Senate will consider tax extenders until November.
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Farm Policy Roundup –July 18, 2014

House Passes Permanent Enhanced Conservation Deduction

iStock_000000142578MediumThe U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 4719, a tax package to encourage charitable giving. Included in the bill were provisions of H.R. 2807, the Conservation Easement Incentive Act. Originally sponsored by Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.) and Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), H.R. 2807 would make permanent an enhanced conservation easement deduction for landowners donating conservation easements. The Conservation Easement Incentive Act had broad bi-partisan support in the House with 222 co-sponsors and the larger charitable tax package passed in the House by a vote of 277 to 130. Companion legislation to H.R. 2807, S. 526, is currently pending in the U.S. Senate where the next vote will occur in order for the enhanced deduction to become permanent.

American Farmland Trust continues to support the enhanced deduction as Congress considers “tax extenders” legislation. AFT is also pursuing broader tax reform, specifically changes to the estate tax that would benefit farmland conservation.
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Farm Policy Roundup–July 11, 2014

rcppblogRegional Conservation Partnership Program Pre-Proposal Deadline July 14

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is accepting pre-proposals for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) through Monday, July 14.

NRCS is advises partners to submit pre-proposals via email or postal mail. The website will be down for maintenance the weekend of July 12- 14, 2014. This means that applicants will NOT be able to submit proposals via after today, July 11. For any applicants submitted between July 12 -14, please submit through email at or postal mail.

For complete details, visit the RCPP homepage.
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Women Landowners and the Future of Agriculture

women23We’re witnessing a major demographic shift in agriculture. Over the next two decades, as aging farmers retire or leave their land to the next generation, 70 percent of the nation’s private farm and ranch land will likely change hands. One report predicts that women may own 75 percent of this transferred farmland.

Many of these women are non-farming landowners. A significant number of farm and ranch land owners in the United States – 42 percent – lease out their land for other people to operate.

Although they may not be in farming themselves, we know that non-farming landowners make many important decisions about their land that have a profound impact on the nation’s land stewardship and farm viability. For instance, these landowners have a say in what conservation practices take place on their land – affecting soils, water and the environment.

But research shows that women landowners who lease their land face greater gender barriers in managing their land for long-term sustainability. Their farming tenants may dismiss their conservation goals, or they may not know how to approach the resource management agencies (like Soil and Water Conservation Districts) for help.

At the same time, Iowa researchers discovered that women who lease farmland in their state tend to be deeply committed to healthy farmland, farm families and farm communities. If this trend holds for women in general, it makes them ideal partners in conservation across the nation after we overcome the obstacles they face.

To address this potential paradigm shift in land ownership, American Farmland Trust has a two-prong approach: find out more about how women who lease their land to others make decisions, and figure out the best way to get them the information they need.

Thanks to a timely investment from Rachel’s Network – a vibrant community of women at the intersection of environmental advocacy, philanthropy and women’s leadership – we partnered with Peggy Petrzelka at Utah State University (USU). She is a well-known expert on non-farming landowners. USDA’s Economic Research Service and The Mosaic Company Foundation also provided much-needed funding for this effort.

Through a survey and focus groups with women around the country, we are learning more about women landowners – which will help us and the nation’s resource management agencies give these women the tools they need to best take care of their land.

In Illinois and Indiana, we convened learning circles for women inspired by work the Women, Food and Agriculture Network (WFAN) had done in Iowa. Women-only learning circles bring women landowners together with conservation professionals – also women – to have an informal discussion about their hopes and dreams for their land.

Over 50 percent of the women who attend these sessions take a conservation action within six months of attending a learning circle, according to WFAN findings. As a result of their value, we are supporting continued learning circles in both states while expanding them to Maryland and Virginia. AFT’s Farmland Information Center uses the findings from these circles to better provide the information and resources these landowners need.

Already through our focus groups we’ve uncovered many regional differences among women landowners in terms of how much land they own, whether they live on the land, what decisions they share with their tenants, and the particular challenges they face.

We will keep you apprised as this exciting project moves forward and as we gain insights that guide our work as the nation’s leading resource for saving the land and keeping it healthy. To learn more about our work with women landowners, visit

Click here to read the preliminary report on this project.




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Sharing Stories: A Passion for Farms, Farmland and the Environment

Our passions emerge from our experiences. They reflect our values and drive our actions each and every day.

At American Farmland Trust, our work is rooted in a deep connection to farmland and a shared vision to save the land that sustains us. We want to hear from you about why you share this same passion. What drives you to care about protecting farmland? How do your experiences shape a vision of a viable future for farms and ranches? Why do you work to help safeguard America’s land and water resources?

Here are some anecdotes from our staff about their own personal passions for farms, farmland and the environment. Please join us in sharing your unique stories by commenting in the “Leave a Reply” box below.

Jon Scholl on his farm in Illinois

Jon on his farm in Illinois

After growing up on a farm in Illinois, my passion stems from a deep, personal understanding of the wonders and tribulations of the life and business of farming. I gained an appreciation for land and animals and the unique care required by both. From the time I was a young boy, I was amazed by the terrific regenerative capacity of farms and farmland as they evolve and grow to be renewed each spring. The land, I learned, was irreplaceable in this process. When I am home in Illinois, I still marvel at how good-quality soil and critical rainfall can come together at just the right time and place to produce food and so many other things we need. I cringe to remember years when the power of Mother Nature brought its challenges. Still, there is nothing more fascinating to watch than when everything comes together for an ideal growing season and harvest. I’m fortunate to still be learning from the rewarding and unpredictable life on a farm.  ~ Jon Scholl, President, American Farmland Trust

Kitty Smith, American Farmland Trust

Kitty Smith, American Farmland Trust

I had an idyllic childhood in what was then a rural area outside of Chicago. I didn’t grow up on a farm but I lived in a farm house across the road from a vast, highly diversified crop and livestock farm. My mother would drive up the farm’s big lane on a weekly basis to buy fresh eggs, a side quarter of a hog, or delicious jams and jellies. We kids scattered the chickens and cooed over any baby animal on-site. When I was 12, we moved to a Baltimore suburb and, though farms were no longer in my daily view, I brought with me an appreciation for farmland. Through a research project in high school, I learned about early smart growth policies in Baltimore County and about planning to preserve open space and farmland. When I returned to Illinois some years later, a strip mall and residential development complex had replaced the wonderful farmland across from the road from my old house. Baltimore County, on the other hand, has maintained its plan which helped to preserve farmland, and the valleys are as beautiful now as they were when the plan was adopted in the late 1960s. These experiences have helped to guide my belief that farming and development can go hand-in-hand if, through good public policy, the land best suited to farmland is designated for that use.  ~ Kitty Smith, Vice President of Programs & Chief Economist, American Farmland Trust

Pumpkin Festival at Sinkland Farms

Photo Courtesty of Sinkland Farms

Shortly after college graduation, my husband and I bought our dairy farm and, on New Year’s Day 32 years ago,Sinkland Farms was founded. My passion for the land grew from my childhood spent on my own family’s farm. Farming has simply been my way of life. As we expanded the farm from dairy production to also include harvest festivals and school field trips, our family was able to share with the public the opportunity to connect with the land and learn where food comes from. Whether at the farm or in the American Farmland Trust offices, I am fortunate to be able to share my passion for farming each and every day. ~Susan Sink, Vice President of Development and External Relations, American Farmland Trust

Bob Wagner, American Farmland Trust

Bob Wagner, American Farmland Trust

Growing up on Long Island in New York—a place well-known for its crowded landscape and congested roads but also home to the first publically funded farmland protection program in the country—my connection to the protection of farmland, or rather the loss of farmland, is very personal. My parents bought a house lot to build the home I grew up in from a farmer who, like many farmers near to retirement and apparently without a family member interested in keeping the farm, began selling off the least productive portions of his farm. So our house was in what those of us on the street that emerged from the farm called “the woods.” When I was very young, my cousins and I could still go visit the farmer and pet his barnyard animals. But eventually, he sold all the lots in the woods and began to sell lots in what we all called “the fields,” one of which had become the neighborhood sandlot baseball field. Gradually, the farm fields too became house lots until only one remained – our sandlot diamond. For a little while the baseball field was still there for us to play on, until finally it too became a house. The farm was gone and so was what had become essentially a local park. This childhood experience stuck with me and contributed to my decision to pursue a degree in land use planning and eventually to become involved in helping farmers and communities develop farmland protection and farm viability programs. ~ Bob Wagner, Senior Policy and Program Advisor, American Farmland Trust

Three generations of farmers on a tractor

Three generations of the Hunter family.

My passion for farms started at my grandpa’s side. Nothing made an eight-year-old boy feel like a man as much as carrying a feed bucket, riding in the bed of a truck, or opening a gate for grandpa. Even getting up early was fun when it meant you got to go out to feed the horses or check the cows. As the years passed, my summertime “work camp” jobs expanded to tougher assignments—fixing fence, stacking square bales and getting cows ready for the sale barn—but that work just made grandma’s noon dinner taste better. When grandpa passed on, so did the farm, skipping a generation to my oldest cousin. Now my parents have a new farm, a cow-calf grazing operation where my own kids will get to learn the beautiful discipline of closely tending a cow herd, acres of fields and forests, and a sprawling infrastructure of fences, gates and waterers. Their grandma and grandpa will teach them where the blackcap berries grow in the summer, how to know when the garden tomatoes are ripe, and which pasture species the cows eat first when they’re moved to a new paddock. Hopefully my kids, like me, will fall in love with both the ecological complexities and the simple human joys of growing food on the land, extending my family’s farming legacy down another generation. ~ Mitch Hunter, Federal Policy Manager: Conservation, American Farmland Trust

Young girl with cow

Preparing to show at the Washington County Fair in New York.

My passion for farmland is rooted in family history. Since 1856, the Goodman family has owned and operated a dairy farm in upstate New York. Growing up around the farm has meant family is always nearby, oftentimes gathered around the table together for a meal or taking a break from work in the field to show cows at the county fair. Each generation has faced its challenges, having to adjust and evolve in order to endure. Sadly, it has been during my lifetime that the land and its history has started to slip away as my family struggles with what to do when the interest to stay home and carry on the business is lacking from my generation. With this uncertain future, we sold some land to developers who built an elite soccer camp and each day I work, at American Farmland Trust and with family members, in hopes that more productive land does not meet the same fate. I learned so much growing up at Goodmanor Farm—the value of hard work, the importance of taking care of land and water, the pricelessness of family. Though its form may change shape, I hope the land can continue to teach these lessons for generations to come, perhaps for my own children. ~Erica Goodman, Communications Associate, American Farmland Trust

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Girl facing goat

Vacation usually means relaxation, time for yourself, and perhaps a little adventuring. While researching your next vacation destination, a farm may not immediately come to mind. Destination farm vacations, or farm stays, are gaining popularity across the United States and may just be the perfect balance for your family’s next vacation.

Farm stays aren’t a new phenomenon, but are more commonly found abroad, such as in Italy and New Zealand. The growing interest in farm stays in the United States comes at a time when more and more people are getting reacquainted with the land, food and farming. What better way to learn about where your food comes from than to work the land yourself? Each farm stay experience is a unique one that allows you to be as involved in the farm as you desire.

While vacationing at your chosen farm destination, you may have a selection of activities offered to you, such as collecting eggs in the morning, cheese making classes, or feeding the animals on the farm. You will also have an opportunity to explore the area around the farm, and see what life on a working farm is really like.

Jupiter Moon Farm located near Charlottesville, Virginia, offers farm stays that are focused on knitting and spinning. If you don’t know much about knitting or spinning, they can also arrange for lessons during your stay. At Blue Heron Farm, in Massachusetts, you can participate in activities such as milking goats, picking berries and other seasonal farm tasks. For coffee lovers and for those looking for a more tropical experience, you can stay in the Hawaiian countryside on a Kona coffee farm. In California you can stay at Philo Apple Farm and enjoy a weekend of cooking using various techniques, ingredients and a healthy dose of creativity.

While searching for farms to stay on, you will also come across a wide variety of offered accommodations and amenities. Some farms, like this ranch in Montana, offer private cabins, while other farms, like Deepwater Bay in North Dakota, give the option of staying in the farmhouse. The types of farms and ranches that you can choose to stay at vary greatly. You might want to see what a cattle ranch in Arizona is like, or you may want to discover more about the winemaking process on a vineyard in Washington.

Whatever option you choose to explore and enjoy during your vacation, you will come away with a new meaning and appreciation for the food you eat, the wine you drink, and the farmers who take care of it. Happy farm-cationing!

About the author: Delancey Nelson is the market manager of the Lauraville Farmers Market in Baltimore, Maryland. She has worked on numerous farms and vineyards abroad and holds a degree in Historic Preservation and Community Planning from the College of Charleston.

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Farm and Food News 12/16

Olive oil from Georgia?!

A Georgia farm is returning to the state’s roots in olive trees, which means fresh  commercial olive oil is available from Georgia for the first time since the late 1880s. The oil has already been used in southern restaurant kitchens and will hopefully be available in larger quantities next year in order to supply other restaurants and increase regional sales.

Getting your hands dirty in education

Students in six Sonoma County, California, high schools have the opportunity to enroll in the Farming and Resource Management for Sustainability (FARMS) program. The unique program, put on by the Sonoma County Resource Conservation District, teaches students about “caring for the land,” using local farms as the classroom and laboratory.

New classes on old subjects

For three years, Madison High School in Portland, Oregon, has offered students an innovative a sustainable agriculture class. The class is part of a larger effort by the district to create a career technical education (CTE) program in sustainable agriculture.

Residents discuss the importance of farmland

Residents of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, joined together to plead for more county funding for farmland preservation and green space initiatives this week, citing the importance of saving land now before it’s too late.

Steps towards preservation

The Northern California Regional Land Trust has committed itself to preserving farmland in Butte, Glenn and Tehama counties with agricultural conservation easements. This push for preservation is occurring along the long-standing “Greenline” in Southwest Chico, which separates prime farmland and from land marked for future development.

New manure and fertilizer recommendations

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released new recommendations for manure and fertilizer use on farmland. According to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the new recommendations will benefit the land, waterways and farmers themselves.

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Farm and Food News 12/9/11

Cutting back on development

Despite the recession, smart growth planning that limits poorly planned development is still important, and voters continue to support public funds for land conservation.

Don’t forget your farmer this holiday season

While preparing your holiday feasts this season, remember to support your local farmers. Even though farmers markets and CSA farms have finished for the season in some parts of the country, there are other ways to find local produce, such as food hubs.

Assistance in Keeping the Land Healthy in Ohio

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is offering programs again this year to help farmers in Ohio improve the health of their land. A variety of USDA conservation programs are available that can help improve soil health and protect wetlands, wildlife, water and farmland. Applications are due Dec. 15, so schedule an appointment to meet with your NRCS representative today.

Holiday farm photo contest

Grab your camera and take your favorite pictures of this holiday season on the farm. The Farm Industry News is holding its holiday photo contest and wants to see how you celebrate and enjoy the holiday season. But you better hurry because the deadline is Monday, December 12th!

Share your farming stories with Small Farm Quarterly

Small Farm Quarterly, a publication for farmers and farm families across the Northeast, is looking for submissions for their newsletter; farmers and farm advocates are encouraged to contribute and share their stories.

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The Apple of Our Eye

Erica Goodman Harvesting ApplesApples are known for keeping the doctor away as well as for their delicious flavors! From sweet to tart, apples have no bounds in our appetites. However, like other farm-fresh produce, America’s apple obsession is being threatened by the loss of farmland.

The conversion of farmland to shopping centers, highways and subdivisions is having a disproportionate impact on the states that produce the bulk of fruits and vegetables for the United States. Farms closest to our cities, and directly in the path of development, produce much of our fresh food. A shocking 91 percent of our nation’s fruit production is in the path of development. In fact, view our “Apple as Planet Earth” video for a great demonstration of how much of the earth is suitable for farming.

Apple orchards also aid in safeguarding habitats for a variety of wildlife. Trees of all kinds provide environmental benefits, including their ability to absorb carbon dioxide in the air and release oxygen, thus helping to decrease the growing concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Clearly, there are many benefits to protecting farmland and the bounties it provides, and just as many ways to save your favorite fruit! To celebrate Apple Month in October, Peeled Snacks has a special offering of their delicious American Farms Sampler of dried fruit snacks—including “Apple-2-the-Core,” which is sourced from growers in North America—with 10 percent of each purchase going directly to American Farmland Trust to support our work to save the land that sustains us. (The sampler is being offered at a special discount this month!)

Other then buying locally sourced snacks and fruits, there are some other ways to get involved with saving farmland. The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation offers grants and workshops devoted solely to getting more fruit trees into our communities. The Farmland Information Center is a wonderful research source for farmers and community residents to find information on saving local and regional farmland.

Next time you bite into your favorite apple, take a second to think about the land where that apple came from and then imagine a world without apples and orchards. Check out our list of “Seven Ways to Save Farmland” for more ideas on how to do your part to help preserve farm and ranch land in the United States. It’s as easy as apple pie.

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Eat, Drink and Savor Your Farmland During Dine Out for Farms

The fall season brings with it new produce to fill our refrigerators and tables. Across the country, we bite into crisp sweet apples and start getting reacquainted with our ovens. With restaurants increasingly using more local products and farm fresh ingredients, you can now find your favorite seasonal flavors when you are dining out.

American Farmland Trust is celebrating delicious food and the farmers and land needed to grow it—while giving diners and restaurants a great way to support farms and farmland—during our second annual Dine Out for FarmsTM week from October 16 to 22. With participating restaurants in 22 states and Washington, D.C.—from Seattle, Washington, to Charleston, South Carolina—a wide range of locally sourced ingredients and dishes can be found to suit many tastes.

Dine Out for FarmsTM restaurants are participating in a variety of ways. Check out your closest participating Dine Out for FarmsTM location and join the cause to help save farms and farmland. A special thanks goes out to our “Farmers’ Champion” restaurants: Founding Farmers, Jaleo, and Café Milano in the Washington, D.C. area and Galletto Ristorante in Modesto, California.

Check out some of the buzz:

We’d also love to hear what farm fresh meals you are enjoying at participating restaurants during Dine Out for Farms TM week! Please share in the comments section below or join the conversation on Twitter at #dine4farms.

About the Authors: Delancey Nelson is a Marketing Intern with American Farmland Trust. She has worked on numerous farms and vineyards abroad and holds a degree in Historic Preservation and Community Planning from the College of Charleston. She is also the market manager of the Lauraville Farmers Market in Baltimore, Maryland.

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