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
The 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