Farm Policy Roundup– September 12, 2014

iStock_000000142578MediumCongress 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.

USDA Announces Easement Funding

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced this week that USDA has made available $328 million in fiscal year 2014 funding through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) to help protect and restore key farmlands, grasslands and wetlands across the nation. The USDA initiative will benefit farmland conservation as well as wildlife and outdoor recreation.

ACEP was created in the 2014 Farm Bill by merging programs such as the Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (FRPP) and the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP). The program encourages producers to keep land in farming and ranching through Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) and also to protect environmentally sensitive land through Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE).

According to USDA, approximately 380 projects nationwide were selected to protect and restore 32,000 acres of prime farmland, 45,000 acres of grasslands and 52,000 acres of wetlands. USDA has provided a summary of ACEP funding to each state, however the official funding breakdown is not specific to ALE or WRE, nor does it specific to financial assistance provided versus technical assistance.

American Farmland Trust has confirmed that the application process for FY14 funds was highly competitive. NRCS received 1,450 total applications for more than $546 million in funding to restore and protect more than 345,000 acres through ACEP easements. Of those applications, 31 percent of the requests were to protect agricultural land through the ALE component, and 69 percent of the requests were to restore and protect wetlands through the WRE component.

According to NRCS, project selection was based on an analysis of project quality, NRCS landscape initiatives and priority resource concerns, demand, distribution, historic allocations, and workload. As a result, 32 percent of the funds have been allocated for ALE and 68 percent of the funds have been allocated for WRE.

American Farmland Trust has long supported farmland protection funding for ALE at a minimum of 40 percent, so the FY14 funding allocations are currently below that level. Increasing demand for ALE will be important as partners look to fiscal year 2015 applications.

Join us in Lexington, Kentucky, October 20-22 – Register today!

registernowGREENAmerican Farmland Trust’s Farmland, Food and Livable Communities Conference is the premiere national conference weaving farmland protection together with conservation, food systems and next generation issues.

Join us in Lexington, Kentucky, October 20-22 – Register today!

The conference offers four tracks of workshop sessions on cross-cutting themes. Sessions in the farmland protection track will address impacts of the new Farm Bill on conservation and farmland protection, showcase exemplary community planning, explore effective policies to reduce conversion of arable land, answer “what makes an easement farm-friendly?”, highlight model Purchase of Agricultural Easement programs, introduce promising policy innovations and provide guidance to land trusts who actively want to conserve land for farming and ranching.

Come learn from the experts and meet local and national thought leaders of model programs including:

  • Anne Bradley, Land Preservation Program Coordinator, Frederick Co., Maryland
  • Brian Bourdages, Farmland Program Manager, Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, Michigan
  • Katherine Daniels, Farm and Forest Lands Specialist, Oregon Dept. of Land Conservation and Development
  • Nancy Everhart, Agricultural Specialist, Vermont Housing and Conservation Board
  • Jerome Faulkner, National Easement Specialist, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • Krista Magaw, Executive Director, Tecumseh Land Trust, Ohio
  • Rick Pruetz, editor of SmartPreservation
  • Austin Short, Delaware Deputy Secretary of Agriculture
  • Jeremy Stone, National Program Manager, ACEP-ALE, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • Knox van Nagell, Executive Director, Fayette Alliance, Kentucky
  • Mackenzie Royce, Executive Director, Bluegrass Conservancy, Kentucky
  • Doug Wolfgang, Director, Bureau of Farmland Preservation, Pennsylvania Dept. of Agriculture
  • American Farmland Trust’s policy and program staff

For more information about the program, bus tours, Kentucky Proud reception and Farm Fresh banquet, visit www.farmland.org/nationalconference.

Time is running out – Register today!

Avoid late fees and register by September 30. Questions? Contact Doris Mittasch at AFTNationalConference@farmland.org.

 

 

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