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Working Lands

Protecting Our Working Lands

For more than 30 years, American Farmland Trust has been a national leader in protecting working farm and ranch land, helping to spur an entire farmland protection movement with countless state and local partners. However, even as this charge has spread across the country, so have the forces of farmland destruction.

With the need for farmland preservation more critical than ever, the next farm bill presents an opportunity to set the course for another 30 years and beyond. We recommend retaining current levels of funding for permanent protection of working lands to ensure that landowners and communities have the tools they need to address the threat to farms and ranches. The five federal conservation easement programs should be streamlined and merged into two, divided by those intended to protect working lands and those intended to retire vulnerable lands.

Strengthening the Tools to Preserve Farm and Ranch Land

Working Lands Easement Program: Keeping Farm and Ranch Land in Production

Farmland near Spokane, WashingtonThe Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program and the Grassland Reserve Program share common objectives—to keep agricultural land in production and contribute to local economies. Combining them will create a stronger program without sacrificing effectiveness.

Land Retirement and Restoration Program: Taking Environmentally Fragile Land Out of Production

Likewise, the Wetlands Reserve Program, Emergency Watershed Protection Program, and Healthy Forests Reserve Program can all be seamlessly merged. A consolidated program would continue to offer protection for previously farmed wetlands; forestlands that support biodiversity and critical wildlife habitats; and threatened farmed floodplains.

A New Preservation Tool: Debt for Working Lands Easement
To further strengthen the farm and ranch land protection movement, we propose instituting a new “Debt-for-Easement” program. This program would enable the debt on productive working lands to be retired in return for a permanent conservation easement that would protect the land from future non-agricultural development. By allowing the land to continue to be used for agricultural production, this tool would both further farmland protection and provide an option to help farmers and ranchers eliminate debt and remain in farming.

Agenda 2013 Priorities

Policy Resource Library

Voices for Change

Changes in the 2012 Farm Bill appear both likely and may be significant, if not radical. Our country’s economic situation will be the most significant driver and agent of change in the 2012 Farm Bill. — Jon Scholl, President, American Farmland Trust

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    Changes in the 2012 Farm Bill appear both likely and may be significant, if not radical. Our country’s economic situation will be the most significant driver and agent of change in the 2012 Farm Bill. — Jon Scholl, President, American Farmland Trust