Here are a handful of farmland updates from across the nation from
New Hampshire Rededicates Funding for Farmland Conservation
After several years of being diverted, all proceeds from New Hampshire’s deed recording fee—an estimated $8.45 million over the next two years—will be dedicated to the state’s Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP), thanks to strong support from legislators of both parties and from Governor Maggie Hassan. Because of LCHIP, towns and land trusts around the state, working with farmers and landowners, have permanently protected 263,000 acres of land for forestry, farming, recreation, watershed protection and habitat. This marks a significant increase from the $1.8 million that was provided in the last two-year state budget. Cris Coffin, New England Director, is thrilled with this news and thanks AFT members in New Hampshire who weighed in with their legislators during the state budget process. “New Hampshire has lost nearly one-fifth of its farmland in just the last 30 years,” Coffin noted. “With this action, the state will again be an important and reliable partner in farmland protection efforts, able to increase the state’s pace of farmland protection.”
New England Project Highlights Programs and Policies to Promote Farmland Access
Finding affordable land to lease or to buy is one of the major challenges facing the next generation of farmers in New England. Two new reports produced by the Land Access Project—a regional project in which American Farmland Trust participated—offer recommendations on ways that states, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, farm and conservation organizations, land trusts, and private investors can help to improve access to land for new and beginning farmers. The Farmland Access and Tenure Innovationsreport focuses on strategies to encourage public and private landowners to sell or lease their land to beginning farmers. The second report, Does the Option at Agricultural Value Protect Farmland for Beginning Farmers, analyzes a legal requirement—used by both the Massachusetts and Vermont farmland protection programs, as well as some land trusts—that farmland under conservation easement be sold at its agricultural value rather than market value. This would ensure the affordability of protected land for farmers, particularly beginning farmers.
Victory for Farmland Protection in Washington State Budget
The Washington State Legislature finally passed a budget for the 2013-15 biennium and it includes $5.3 million for farmland protection, a substantial increase from the $700,000 approved in 2011. The funding will be used to purchase conservation easements on 14 farms totaling more than 6,000 acres around Washington State. American Farmland Trust led a coalition of farmers, farm organizations, and environmentalists to support the appropriation. “This is the first big success of our Farmland Forever campaign,” said Dennis Canty, Pacific Northwest Director for AFT. “We’re very proud to have played our part in a substantial increase in funding for farms and farmers.” American Farmland Trust’s Farmland Forever campaign aims to protect 70,000 additional acres of Puget Sound region farmland in large lot exclusive agricultural zoning in the next five years.
Farmland Protection Fares Well in Wisconsin Budget
Despite the fact that the state’s Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easement Program remains unfunded, farmland protection measures did relatively well in the recently completed Wisconsin budget. Funding was restored for county land conservation departments, a critical link in local farmland protection and conservation efforts; Governor Walker vetoed an effort to transform the state’s farmland preservation tax credit into a grants program, while also fully funding the current tax credit program; and, funds for county farmland preservation planning grants were restored.