Tag Archives: environment

Hot Fun in the Summer Time: Ear Leaf Tissue Testing

It was July, almost August. And was HOT. I was burrowing my way through six foot tall corn in 100 degree temperatures! Last month I told you about testing the soil to get a read on how much nitrogen (think plant food) there is next to the corn plants to help them grow. We did that BEFORE the farmer gave the corn any additional fertilizer which made it a Pre-Sidedress Nitrate Tests (PSNT).

As a crop advisor for the BMP Challenge, I revisited the fields at the end of July to take Ear Leaf Tissue Samples. The plant’s silk coming from the top of the ears is still yellow but just about to turn brown meaning it’s our last chance to check up on the health of the plants prior to harvest. Walking the length of the field (about two football fields with 6-foot corn means I hadn’t seen daylight for 30 minutes!) and I periodically pulled off a leaf, the one that grows at the base of the ear of corn, to collect samples for testing.  Being in the field also gave me a chance to examine the crop for signs of stress, such as withered leaves from drought, yellowed leaves due to low nitrogen and insects.

These samples taken in BMP Challenge enrolled fields come from two areas: first from the “check strip,” where the farmer had applied nitrogen at a rate of his or her own choosing, and then from the remainder of the field where the nitrogen rate was determined by the PSNT results.  The samples of ear leaves help backup the PSNT results, showing that the portion of the field that had received a reduced amount of fertilizer would still have adequate nitrogen to make it through harvest.  But maybe even more important, the ear leaf test provides another data point, another topic to discuss when we sit down as a group with the participating farmers after the harvest. As a crop advisor, I work to provide BMP Challenge enrolled farmers with all the information to ponder, discussing their observations and the test results against their yields to evaluate the use of best management practices on their field.

The PSNT and Ear Leaf tests just provide a snapshot of the nutrients available to the plants on the day the samples are taken. They give the farmer one more piece of the complex puzzle that is nitrogen fertilizer management.  Much research has been done over the last several decades to determine the amount of each nutrient that is necessary to support growth. Mother Nature is unpredictable and soil types differ from farm to farm, so each farmer must have their management strategies. At the same time, it is impossible for any single test or guideline to consistently provide the “right” answer about how much fertilizer a farmer should apply.  The main reason I was out in the summer heat, melting and collecting the ear leaf samples was to give each farmer one more measurement of their crop’s progress in order to evaluate the recommendations that we made to them after the PSNT.

When people my age leave Virginia Tech with an ag degree and look at today’s economy, they know they will have to be innovative in order to remain profitable if they want to farm  The “slippery fish” of nitrogen that I work with as a crop advisor requires extra attention; it’s risky and being wrong is expensive. AFT’s BMP Challenge program is providing access to tools and knowledge to help farmers better manage their fertilizer usage. By offering insurance, AFT is encouraging producers to try new practices on their fields—like the one I walked through that hot July day—and not lose sleep at night worrying about yield loss. Using fertilizer more efficiently meets the double bottom line that farmers want: to improve the water in the stream while getting the most corn at the least cost.



About the Author: Dana Gochenour is a farmer and freelance writer in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. She can be reached at dgochen@vt.edu.

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Setting the Course for Improved Water Quality: Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana Sign Groundbreaking Agreement to Protect Water and Support Farmers

Nestled on the north bank of the Ohio River, Cincinnati is a stone’s throw from the bluegrass of Kentucky and Indiana’s horizon of corn and soybean. This month, the city served as the perfect backdrop for representatives from all three states to sign a historic agreement that will set the tone for the future of water quality across the region.

Ohio River

The groundbreaking agreement launches interstate water quality pilot trades in the Ohio River Basin, a program aimed to reduce the release of excess nutrients running off of farm fields into the network of waterways leading into the Ohio River, the largest tributary of the Mississippi River. The project, led by Electric Power Research Institute with assistance from American Farmland Trust, the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, the Ohio River Valley Sanitation Commission, Hunton & Williams LLP, Kieser & Associates, LLC, and the University of California at Santa Barbara, marks the first time three states have come together to develop or implement an interstate trading program where all states operate under the same rules and a water quality credit generated in one state can be applied in another.

What is Water Quality Trading?

The goal of water quality trading is to improve the health of water sources, in this case the Ohio River and its tributaries, by reducing the excess nutrients leaving cities, factories and farms. It is an innovative market-based approach to reduce the release of excess nutrients from non-point sources – such as farm fields – into waterways. Water quality trading is:

  • Completely voluntary;
  • A source of revenue for farmers who can make further reductions in nutrients through planned conservation practices; and
  • A cost-effective alternative for regulated utilities, wastewater treatment plants and industries to meet environmental regulations by buying nutrient reduction credits from farmers.
A field tour of conservation practices on Schroer Farm in Patriot, Ind., showed possible credit-generation practices in action.

A field tour of conservation practices on Schroer Farm in Patriot, Ind., showed possible credit-generation practices in action.

By offering a financial incentive for farmers in the Ohio River Basin to implement conservation practices while at the same time improving water quality and saving money, water quality trading is a win-win for all involved. (Though geared toward similar AFT work in the Chesapeake Bay, our video “Nutrient Trading in Maryland” helps to highlight the pilot program now being established in the Ohio River Basin.)

A Voice for Farmers. A Vision for the Future

American Farmland Trust’s role in the project is to ensure that the water quality trading program is developed in a way that allows for full participation of farmers. Not only will these practices improve the health of the entire river basin, but they will help keep farmers on the land and actively farming by adding a new source of income to their operations – the sale of nutrient reduction credit to utility companies, wastewater treatment plants and other regulated point sources.

The plan will serve as the basis for the three states to implement pilot trades beginning in 2012 through 2015. Although some states have adopted trading policies or rules to govern trading within their jurisdictions, this is the first time that several states have come together to develop or implement an interstate trading program where all states operate under the same rules and a water quality

Representatives from Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio sign the Ohio River Basin Water Quality Trading Plan

Representatives from Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio sign the Ohio River Basin Water Quality Trading Plan credit generated in one state can be applied in another.

After three years of hard work, we’re just getting started. We plan to have the first pilot trades in place before the end of 2012 with the remainder implemented in 2013-2014. The water quality pilot trades will take place in up to 16 counties in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, and are expected to engage at least three power plants and up to 30 farms implementing conservation practices on up to 20,000 acres. Reduction of nutrients running from farm fields into waterways is expected to total approximately 45,000 pounds of nitrogen and 15,000 pounds of phosphorus annually.

At full-scale, the project could include up to eight states in the Ohio River Basin and would potentially create credit markets for 46 power plants, thousands of wastewater facilities and other industries, and approximately 230,000 farmers. There is much work left ahead in order to get there, but with the signatures transcribed on a balmy August day in Cincinnati, we have taken a critical giant leap in the right direction.


About the Author: Ann Sorensen, Ph.D. is Director of Research at American Farmland Trust. She currently sits on the EPA’s Farm, Ranch and Rural Communities Federal Advisory Committee.

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No Farms, No Food® Rally 2012: Better than Ever!

Farm and food advocates from around New York State laid solid groundwork for legislative funding to protect farmland, and sustain the business of agriculture, at American Farmland Trust’s third annual No Farms, No Food® Rally, held February 15 in Albany.

Our latest Rally brought together more than 100 individuals, representing 70 supporting organizations, and sent a powerful message to Governor Andrew Cuomo, Commissioner of Agriculture Darrel Aubertine, state legislators, and other New Yorkers. That message? We must strengthen our farm and food economy, protect farmland and the environment, and increase access to nutritious food grown in New York. Many participants described the day as “the best No Farms, No Food® Rally yet.”

An Administration Committed to Supporting Farms

2012 No Farms No Food Rally Participants

Jeff Jones, Land Trust Alliance; Janet Thompson, Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust; Fred Huneke, WAC; Stephen Kidd, Urban Garden in Harlem; Terry Wilbur, Oswego County Legislature. photo credit: Dietrich Gehring

Key state leaders underscored their commitment to strengthening New York’s farm and food policy. Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy, along with state agriculture committee chairs Senator Patty Ritchie and Assemblyman Bill Magee, joined us at the Rally and spoke in support of our pro-farm agenda.

Robert Morgenthau, former Manhattan District Attorney and Special Counsel to American Farmland Trust, introduced Lieutenant Governor Duffy. In his opening remarks, Morgenthau, who owns a family farm in Dutchess County, explained the state’s commitment to farmland this way, “There’s bad news and good news. The bad news is that the state doesn’t have a lot of excess money around, and in past years the protection of farmland has not been a priority for the state. The good news is this administration is committed 100 percent to supporting farms.”

Lieutenant Governor Duffy, in his remarks, praised New York State agriculture. “Not only do we have the greatest state in the nation, but we have the greatest agricultural state in the nation. Agriculture is a $4.7 billion industry in the state. That is huge.”

Duffy was emphatic about Governor Cuomo’s support for agriculture. “He gets it, he understands, he listens,” said Duffy. The Lieutenant Governor also spoke of  his own personal interest in visiting farms and talking directly with American Farmland Trust, farmers and other supporters of New York’s farm and food systems, and about ways the state can help farmers build our farm and food economy.

Buy Local

Senator Patty Ritchie, Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, told an enthusiastic crowd that “eating local matters.” Ritchie represents one of the largest-dairy producing regions in the state.  It includes Oswego and Jefferson Counties, as well as the western half of St. Lawrence County. Ritchie is working with the state Office of General Services and Governor Cuomo to look for ways to bring more New York-produced food to Albany.

Rally participant Bhavani Jaroff of Long Island, and host of the Progressive Radio Network’s iEat Green, recorded her show from Albany on the day of the Rally.  She stressed to listeners and those in attendance that New York must “allocate enough money to keep farmers from needing to sell their land to developers in order to retire, and to make it possible for them to transition their land to a new generation of farmers.” Jaroff went on to say, “We all need to eat, and if we want access to fresh, local, sustainably raised fruits, vegetables and dairy, we need to support our farmers.”

Building Relationships

It is imperative that the voices of pro-farming, pro-farmland advocates ring throughout Albany in the days immediately ahead, as New York State leaders negotiate a budget and review pieces of legislation key to farming’s future.

Visit our website, to see great photos and media stories about the No Farms, No Food® Rally 2012. We encourage you to share the images and articles on your own websites and through social media to help spread the No Farms, No Food® message!

The deadline for a final state budget is March 30, though Governor Cuomo is shooting to have it completed even sooner.  Be sure to sign up for our email updates, if you haven’t already, and we’ll keep you updated during budget negotiations and as legislation we support makes its way through the legislature.

Last but certainly not least, remember that developing relationships with your elected leaders is critical!  Invite them to your farmers market, CSA or land trust event. Ask them to meet your town board or food co-op or take a tour of your community. They must not ever forget—No Farms, No Food®!


David Haight About the Author: David Haight is New York Director of American Farmland Trust and aids state and federal legislators as they work on agricultural and land conservation legislation. He has helped coordinate projects that have permanently protected more than 4,000 acres of New York farmland.

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What’s Risk Got to Do with It?: Encouraging On-Farm Conservation

Like any business owner or operator, farmers take careful consideration when making any changes to their operations. A change that may seem relatively simple to an outsider could require new equipment, more labor or a different response to heavy rain or drought. In the end the change may turn out to be a great success, but that is often difficult to be sure of at the outset.

Pennsylvania farm with pond.This balance of change, risk and opportunity cannot be overlooked when asking farmers to address environmental challenges in the Chesapeake Bay. Agriculture may be the leading source of nutrient run-off there, but it has also been the second largest contributor to the progress in cleaning up the bay. We have been working with farmers in the region to help advance this progress through our BMP Challenge, a risk management program that American Farmland Trust is implementing across the nation to encourage farmers to make conservation happen on-the-ground. (For more on the BMP Challenge, read my recent story about visiting a farm in Virginia.)

A recent study in Pennsylvania focused on how to address risk when the business of agriculture intersects with the need to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay. . Here is what we found:

Risk Is Real

The National Academy of Sciences acknowledges the dilemma that farmers face in deciding how much fertilizer to use:

“Since (they) must make nitrogen applications without being able to predict weather and crop yields, the potential for being wrong is always present and will always occur in some years.”

Our data shows that reducing fertilizer on crops can result in decreased yields 40 percent of the time even with well-tested practices. Over time, these practices should pay off, but farmers cite fear of lost income as a major consideration when deciding whether or not to implement new conservation practices.

An Effective Way to Manage Risk

The BMP Challenge provides three helpful supports to farmers willing to take a chance:

1) Technical assistance from a certified agricultural consultant to help plan and implement the change

2) A comparison of the standard and the new practice on the farmer’s field so he or she can get experience using it and see the results

3) An income guarantee so that if a loss in profit is experienced, the farmer receives the difference

The Result: Widespread Adoption of New Practices

In Pennsylvania, we found that BMP Challenge participants report high satisfaction with the program, and 85 percent say that they have continued to use the practice or a modified form of it on their farm.

Looking Ahead

These results are an important step in addressing the risk that farmers face when adopting conservation practices. We believe that the BMP Challenge is an important new tool for farmers—helping them manage part of the risk they face in trying to be good stewards of the environment and successful small businesses at the same time.

Over the coming months, we will continue exploring how these results will impact the Chesapeake Bay and impaired water bodies across the country. Can we scale up our demonstrations to broader availability? Are there other ways to address “conservation risk,” such as emerging income opportunities like water quality trading that can help mitigate the financial risk of adopting water quality practices?


Jim Baird About the Author: Jim Baird is Mid-Atlantic Director for the American Farmland Trust where he works to help maintain viable farms and clean water through the adoption of nutrient-related conservation practices and en

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Farm and Food News 1/6/12

Protect your teeth and save farmland

Tom Chappell of the environmentally conscious, natural body products company Tom’s of Maine has joined the farmland protection movement in a big way. Chappell recently worked with the Maine Farmland Trust to protect 154 acres of his own farmland from development, and he joined the organization’s campaign to protect 100,000 acres of agricultural land as an honorary chair.

South Carolina farmer shares his love for the land

The South Carolina community and the USDA honored the Williams Muscadine Farm in Nesmith, S.C. during a recent educational USDA Field Day. Farm owner David Williams and his family have transformed the grape vineyard into a destination and place for visitors to learn more about Southern agriculture.

Land transfer program now available nationwide

The Land Contract Guarantee Program, first authorized as a pilot program under the 2002 Farm Bill but expanded and made permanent in the last farm bill, is now available nationwide as of January 3, 2012. The program reduces the financial risk for retiring farmers who sell their farmland to a beginning or socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher, providing “a valuable alternative for intergenerational transfers of farm real estate to help ensure the future viability of family farms.”

Farmer to co-op

A new local foods co-op in Wooster, Ohio, helps to bring products from small local farmers onto its shelves. With area farmers often having difficulty marketing and selling their goods, they are benefiting from selling them to the Local Roots co-op, where they receive 90 percent of the purchase price and local consumers are happy to support them.

Farm incubator programs grow more then experience

Farm workers often hope to eventually own their own land, but even with years of experience, being able to acquire the necessary land isn’t always easy or affordable. Farm incubator programs are increasingly trying to give aspiring farmers the support they need to get off the ground and be viable.

Anaerobic digester aids farmland conservation

A partnership among farmers, an environmental group and an American Indian tribe outside of Seattle, Washington, has resulted in an anaerobic digester that produces electricity and compost while helping dairy farmers deal with waste from their cows in an environmentally sound way.

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California: A Year of Progress

Producing one-eighth of all U.S. food and fiber—more than 300 different crops—on just three percent of its farmland, California is the nation’s biggest agricultural producer. It is also the most populous and fastest growing state. This combination presents considerable challenges for farms and farmland.

This year, we worked with partners throughout the state to make significant progress on each of the groundbreaking initiatives we’ve launched to address the challenges facing farms in California. To us, the challenges represent opportunities to advance our mission of saving farmland, promoting environmentally friendly farming practices and maintaining the economic viability of agriculture. Here is an update on how our strategy is working.

Hoop houses and vegetable farm in CaliforniaSaving  San Joaquin Valley Farmland

We’re helping to guide the first regional planning process in the San Joaquin Valley, California’s most important agricultural area. The Blueprint that emerged this year will save more than 120,000 acres of farmland by reducing urban sprawl. But to accomplish this, it must be incorporated into the land use plans of the region’s local governments, which is now our focus in the valley. At the same time, we have persuaded regional officials to produce a complementary “greenprint” that will inventory agricultural and natural resources and recommend strategies for their conservation and management.

San Francisco Bay Area Foodshed

The nine-county San Francisco Bay Area is losing about one percent of its remaining farmland every year as agriculture in the region struggles to compete—not only with development but also against farmers and ranchers in other areas of California who face lower costs and fewer urban headaches. To halt this trend, American Farmland Trust and partner organizations like the Greenbelt Alliance are promoting a regional agricultural economic development strategy to help farmers and ranchers capitalize on the market advantage they enjoy because of the region’s strong interest in locally grown food.

Environmental Stewardship

Our on-the-ground demonstration projects are helping convince growers that conservation practices do not have to reduce yields and profits. Our Nutrient BMP Challenge® program helped farmers growing feed for dairy cows adopt new environmentally friendly farming practices on 2,400 acres in the San Joaquin Valley. We are also beginning a new project in partnership with the Campbell Soup Company to help tomato producers reduce fertilizer and conserve water. And we are holding focus groups with farmers across the state to identify other obstacles keeping farmers from adopting practices that safeguard the environment.

California Agricultural Vision

One of the most significant things we have ever done in California is to orchestrate a process that led to the adoption by the State Board of Food & Agriculture of a set of strategies to address the major challenges facing California agriculture, among them water, regulations, workforce, invasive species and land use. This year, we have been working with leaders from agriculture, the environmental community and other interest groups to implement California Agricultural Vision, as the plan is called. Foremost among our priorities is an assessment of agriculture’s future land and water needs in light of a growing population, climate change and other factors likely to influence supply and demand for food, which we are pursuing in partnership with researchers at the University of California.

A Look Ahead

While continuing to make progress on the initiatives mentioned here, we will have to address new threats to farmland in the coming year. Among them is a high-speed rail system that—without good land use planning—threatens to encourage more urban sprawl. We also face hundreds of proposals to build industrial-scale solar energy facilities—you guessed it—on California’s irreplaceable farmland.


Ed ThompsonAbout the Author: Edward Thompson, Jr., California Director at American Farmland Trust has been with the organization since it was founded 30 years ago, serving in multiple positions and helping initiate a wide variety of projects.

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Planning for Landscape Integrity in the 21st Century

The National Agricultural Landscapes Forum brought together thought-leaders from around the country to foster a deeper understanding and dialogue about major trends and issues shaping the future of agriculture, conservation and rural regions. Held April 7 and 8 in the shadow of a federal government shutdown, the forum put forward policy and program opportunities to increase government effectiveness and engender cross-jurisdictional collaborations that improve agricultural and conservation outcomes in a sober budgetary environment.

The following is the first in a series of stories that will reflect on the major themes from the forum and what they mean for 21st century agriculture.


A failure to plan is a plan to fail

(L to R) Blue Ribbon Panel Members A.G. Kawamura, Patrick O'Toole and Varel Bailey

The need to think strategically about the future of agriculture was a sentiment shared among the conservation leadership gathered at the recent National Agricultural Landscapes Forum. Looking at the landscape from his vantage as former California Secretary of Agriculture, A.G.Kawamura described California AgVision 2030—a stakeholder-driven effort to shape the state’s food and farming system—as an example of how to bring diverse interests to the table to move agricultural policy into the 21st century. Calling for an agricultural renaissance, Kawamura shared his perspective on converging watersheds, foodsheds and energysheds that will create dynamic communities and end the 20th century exodus from rural America. “The human landscape means there’s an ag landscape as a part of the human environment,” he explained. “How do we plan the environment so it’s sustainable in all its different aspects?”

One answer came from Richard Barringer, Research Professor in Planning, Development and Environment at the University of Southern Maine. Barringer pointed to the New England governors’ Report of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Land Conservation. This ground-breaking initiative addresses five regional landscape themes, including keeping “Farmlands in Farming” and “Forests as Forests.” While New England, according to Barringer, is a “land of rugged individualists, we’re living in new time,” and this effort embodies several key principles: private ownership creates challenges and opportunity; collaboration is absolutely necessary; and conservation solely for natural benefits is no longer enough–today we must incorporate the social and economic benefits. Working together must be a part of the plan. Inspired by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsak’s address at an America’s Great Outdoors workshop in March, Barringer concluded, “Our conservation legacy will be defined by new partnerships and collaboration.”

A changing demographic landscape

A necessity for more effective collaboration points to a need to understand who will be farming in the 21st century. In a poignant keynote address, Sec. Vilsak’s Chief of Staff, Krysta Harden, asked, “Are we talking to all the right people to ask them what they need or are we only talking to people we are comfortable with and know?” She pressed further: “Are we talking to people who feel like they don’t usually have a place at the table?”

According to the most recent USDA Census of Agriculture, the average age of farmers in the country is 57.

Walter Hill, Dean of the College of Agricultural, Environmental and Natural Sciences at Tuskegee University, reminded us that historically we have not succeeded in engaging the whole community. The 2007 Census of Agriculture shows growing ethnic, racial and gender diversity and a rapidly aging farm population. Farm operators 75 years and older increased by 20 percent while those under age 25 dropped 30 percent. Farmers aged 65 or older own 21 percent of America’s farmland, suggesting a huge transfer of land is imminent.

Hill challenged the audience, comprised largely of gray-haired men, “to get inclusion from every group that you can.” He advised, “Building trust is a monster; it takes time.” By 2042, the U.S. Census Bureau also predicts that current minority populations will become the majority, and it is time to start now if we want to be ready.

Beyond the tipping point?

As former Secretary of Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets Roger Allbee pointed out, it has been 30 years since the National Agricultural Lands Study (NALS), the only time the federal government has comprehensively assessed the challenges and opportunities facing the nation’s agricultural land base. Since then, he said, “We’ve lost as much farmland as Illinois and New Jersey put together.” Proportionally more of our best land has been lost, especially prime farmland and cropland. As Craig Cox, senior vice president of Agriculture and Natural Resources at Environmental Working Group stated bluntly, “The 21st century reality is we’ll have less land and water with which to do more.”

Since NALS, we have developed 41 million acres of rural land—or one out of three acres ever developed in this country. Cox was spot on when he said we’ve been “losing rather than gaining ground.”

(L to R) Ross Racine, Jon Scholl, Otto Doering III, Varel Bailey, Julia Freedgood, A.G. Kawamura, John Stierna

Assuming development continues its historical pattern—consuming our best agricultural soils fastest— Jeff Herrick, research soil scientist with USDA Agricultural Research Service, believes demand for farmland will drive expansion onto marginal lands or rangelands. He called for resilient landscapes that have the capacity to recover from extreme weather events: “Sustainable production at landscape scale.” However, with a rapid increase in non-operator landowners, especially in the Corn Belt, Iowa State Assistant Professor J. Gordon Arbuckle, Jr., predicts that future landowners will be further removed from the land, both geographically and culturally, less likely to participate in working lands programs and will spend less on conservation.

A challenge worth taking

If we continue these patterns, where will we be in 2042 when the world population is predicted to be nine billion people? The National Agricultural Landscapes Forum presented a valuable baseline but now we need to answer the big questions: How much land will we need to meet 21st century demands not just for food, fiber and fuel but also for clean air and water and biodiversity? What do we need to do now to secure it? Who will be the farmers and ranchers of tomorrow and what resources will they have to conserve and protect our precious agricultural landscape?

What rang clear from the voices emerging from the forum was the need to think strategically and plan for the future of agriculture, conservation and our precious land and water resources. As Craig Cox advised, “We will have to run much faster and smarter to stay in the same place.” It has never been more urgent to conduct a forward-looking assessment of the agricultural landscape and create the vision and policy direction needed to ensure—borrowing from Aldo Leopold—its integrity, stability and embodiment of community.



About the Author: Julia Freedgood is Managing Director for Farmland and Communities at American Farmland Trust.

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An Everyday Approach to Improving Water Quality

Each year, the world comes together to recognize the importance of our fresh water by commemorating World Water Day. This year’s theme, “Water for Cities,” highlights the pressures that development places on our resources, a concern that is certainly familiar to farm fields in the United States.

A significant amount of our best farm and ranch land is near expanding cities where it’s threatened by sprawling development. Once this productive land is gone, it can’t be brought back. The ripple effect is tremendous and the impact stretches from our rural landscapes to our most populated city centers. When farmland is lost to sprawl and paved surfaces, we also lose the role it can play in helping protect water quality. Well-managed farm and ranch lands protect wetlands and watersheds, can help absorb and filter wastewater, and provide groundwater recharge.

That’s why we work with farmers across the United States to help them implement management practices that can improve water quality. These Best Management Practices, or BMPs, offer farm-friendly solutions to encourage better land management that, in turn, helps to protect and improve water quality.

By enrolling in our BMP Challenge program, corn farmers have implemented practices that reduce tillage and the amount of fertilizers used on a portion of acres in their farm. Through direct involvement with the BMP Challenge program, participating farmers have implemented improved practices on nearly 18,000 acres across the country.  This has resulted in more than 430,000 pounds of fertilizer and sediment prevented from running off into rivers and streams!

Furthermore, farmers indicate that they are implementing the practices on additional acres in their farm operation after participating in the BMP Challenge program. These efforts are helping to provide even more environmental benefit to our rivers and streams.

World Water Day is an opportunity to celebrate the great strides we have made and we’ll continue our work toward improving water quality each and every day. We recently signed on to the Charting New Waters pledge to protect clean water and with your help, we can reach our goal for 54,000 households making their own commitment to improve water quality.


About the Author: Brian Brandt is Director, Agriculture Conservation Innovations Center at American Farmland Trust.

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