Farm Policy Roundup—August 22, 2014

Note—American Farmland Trust’s Farm Policy Roundup will not be published next week in observance of the Labor Day holiday.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!

Pavels-Garden_chardDid 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.

Will you be joining us in Lexington?

USDA Census of Agriculture Congressional District Profiles

The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) recently released congressional district profiles on from the 2012 Census of Agriculture. The congressional district profiles provide a wealth of information for your local area, including a snapshot of agricultural production and comparisons of how production compares at a state and nation level. The profiles also include farm operator demographic information.

USDA Holds Conservation Compliance Webinar for Specialty Crops

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Risk Management Agency (RMA) recently held a webinar for specialty crop producers related to conservation compliance and crop insurance eligibility.

The webinar reviewed for producers how to certify conservation compliance for USDA programs and Federal crop insurance premium subsidies by completing form AD-1026 at their local USDA Service Center. The webinar also reviewed farming activities that can jeopardize conservation compliance, such as draining wetlands and farming highly erodible cropland without an approved conservation plan.

AFT Remembers Jim Jeffords, Former VT Congressman, Senator

By Ed Thompson, Jr., AFT California Director

We note the passing of Jim Jeffords, former Congressman and Senator from Vermont. He was best known for political apostasy, switching parties in 2001—thereby shifting control of the Senate from Republican to Democratic. What is not widely known, however, is that he was also one of the pioneers of the farmland protection movement as the sponsor of the Farmland Protection Policy Act that became part of the 1981 federal Farm Bill. The legislation was inspired by food shortages in New England supermarkets occasioned by a Teamsters strike in the wake of the so-called Arab oil embargo during the Carter Administration. This prompted calls for saving New England farmland to assure the region’s food security. The Act requires federal agencies to consider alternatives to projects that would convert farmland to non-agricultural uses. But the law has been largely ignored because there is no enforcement mechanism.

Jeffords’s original bill, which did not pass, would have created a $2 million purchase of agricultural conservation easements (PACE) pilot program. Instead, Jeffords got an authorization of several million dollars to fund the National Agricultural Lands Study (NALS), and his legislative director Bob Gray went to USDA to run it. More than anything else, NALS was responsible for calling attention to the farmland protection issue, leading among other things to the creation of American Farmland Trust in 1980, with Gray becoming its first policy director. Another alumnus of Congressman Jeffords’ staff, Bob Wagner, later became AFT’s first director of state programs. Jeffords’ original idea for a PACE program was picked up a decade later by the current senator from Vermont, Patrick Leahy, in what became the Farms for the Future Program in the 1990 farm bill. All subsequent federal farmland easement programs, and not a few state and local efforts, have been built on the foundation laid by Jim Jeffords. May he rest in peace under the fertile soil he worked so hard to protect.

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