Members of Congress return to Washington, D.C. next week facing a full slate of legislative items that must be addressed. At the top of the list will be a resolution regarding military action in Syria and legislation to continue funding the federal government into fiscal year 2014.
Where the Farm Bill and other domestic policy items fall on the agenda is unclear. This week USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack called for a new Farm Bill, stating that “an extension won’t provide the certainty that has for so long been a cornerstone of the Farm Bill.” It is widely anticipated that the House will attempt to pass a nutrition-only piece of legislation to address programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), however that vote may be bumped depending on how much legislative time is devoted to Syria and federal funding matters.
American Farmland Trust has led a coordinated advocacy campaign to deliver a simple message to Congress: Pass the Farm Bill. As a result of this advocacy campaign, we have more than achieved our goal of sending 20,000 letters to Congress calling for a new Farm Bill!
Time still remains for you to contact your members of Congress. Visit the American Farmland Trust Action Center to send your letter today!
AFT Releases Study on Farm and Ranchland Protection Program
American Farmland Trust and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln released findings from a study of the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) that shows FRPP improves agricultural viability, encourages on-farm conservation and helps farmers gain access to land. The study, conducted in 2012, was based on interviews conducted with 506 landowners who had protected their land between October 1, 2005 and January 2012.
FRPP keeps land available for agriculture
- 96 percent of landowners said at least some of their protected land was in active agricultural use, and nearly half said that all of their protected land was in production.
- 70 percent of owners are farmers, and the proportion of producers is higher among those who purchased protected farms.
- FRPP is supporting serious commercial enterprises: relatively more operators of FRPP-protected farms fall in the top income categories for agricultural operations.
FRPP improves agricultural viability
- 84 percent of landowners who sold easements used proceeds to improve their farms.
- 65 percent ranked an agricultural purpose as either their largest or second largest expenditure.
- Easement proceeds tended to be spent locally, supporting vital ancillary businesses in communities with protected farms.
FRPP encourages on-farm conservation
- 75 percent reported the application of at least one conservation practice.
- More than two-thirds reported implementing practices to prevent soil erosion or to protect water quality compared to 23 percent of respondents to the Census of Agriculture.
- Among those who initiated practices since the execution of the easement, 48 percent reported that they received support for installing practices from the public and private entities who hold their easement.
- 20 percent used proceeds from the easement sale to install or expand practices.
FRPP helps farmers gain access to land
- 55 percent of landowners who sold easements spent proceeds repaying loans on farm and ranch land they already owned or buying additional agricultural land.
- 65 percent of landowners who had purchased protected land said the price was lower than comparable unprotected land.
- 69 percent of the owners with succession plans said the next owner would be a farmer.
NRCS Releases Reports on Landscape Initiatives
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) recently released fiscal year 2012 Activities Reports for a number of landscape scale conservation initiatives. The reports are specific to the Mississippi River Basin, Chesapeake Bay, Longleaf Pine, Great Lakes, Ogallala Aquifer, and Sage-Grouse Initiatives.