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Senate Praised for Approving Farm Bill Funding to Help Save Working Farm and Ranch Lands

February 4, 2014 | Land Trust Alliance | Washington, D.C.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Sean Crowley | (202) 550-6524 | Email
Jennifer Witherspoon | (415) 298-0582 | Email
Elizabeth Ward | (202) 638-5658 | Email

Waiver Provision Will Allow More Local Landowners to Participate in Conservation Program

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Land Trust Alliance praised the U.S. Senate today for approving a Farm Bill conference report, 68-32, that will provide more than $1 billion for a new conservation program to save working farm and ranch lands throughout the United States over the next 10 years. The U.S. House of Representatives approved the bill on Jan. 29 and the president is expected to sign it into law.

“This legislation will keep working farms and ranches in family hands and maintain the vitality of our farming communities,” said Rand Wentworth, president of the Land Trust Alliance, which represents 1,700 nonprofit land trusts that protect 47 million acres of farms, ranches, forests, wildlife habitat, and other open spaces. “It will help ensure that the land that grows our food will not be lost, protecting jobs and community values across the country.”

The $1 billion in funding will go the new Agricultural Lands Easement program, which consolidates the former Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) and Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) into a single program. FRPP and GRP have conserved more than one million acres of economically and environmentally important agricultural lands, but applications for FRPP and GRP have far exceeded the available funding.

The Land Trust Alliance worked with Senate and House leaders, including Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) and Senate Conservation Subcommittee Chairman Michael Bennett (Colo.), to secure this funding and include an important provision in the Farm Bill that allows the Agriculture Secretary to waive a local cash-match requirement. FRPP required land trusts and local governments to provide a cash match for FRPP conservation projects.

“With land trusts and local governments taking on the long-term stewardship of these conservation projects, this bill enables the Agriculture Secretary to embrace match alternatives so that a lack of local funding does not exclude protection of strategically important conservation opportunities,” said Russ Shay, director of policy for the Land Trust Alliance.

Glen Chown, the founding Executive Director of Michigan’s Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, which protects scenic, natural and farm lands in Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, and Manistee counties, worked with Sen. Stabenow and her staff to advance conservation priorities in the Farm Bill.

“Farm Bill conservation programs have played a large part in the protection of more than 35,000 acres of land and over 100 miles of shoreline along the Grand Traverse region’s scenic rivers, lakes and streams since 1991,” said Chown. “Sen. Stabenow’s tireless legislative efforts to craft this new Agricultural Lands Easement program will help us continue this important tradition.”

Ken Engl, a farmer from Acme Township, Michigan, recently used Farm and Ranchland Protection Program funds to conserve land and has met with Sen. Stabenow at his farm. He also is the treasurer of the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy and serves on its board.

“State or local governments often have funding dedicated to farmland conservation that they can use for the cash match,” said Engl.  “Land trusts sometimes have been able to raise that cash match from foundations or very generous donors.”

“The provisions in the new Farm Bill will allow us to build upon our past successes with new dollars and increased flexibility due to the cash match waiver provision,” said Rob Manigold, who as Supervisor of Old Mission Peninsula Township in Michigan for 25 years, led its successful farmland preservation efforts, including permanently protecting 5,000 acres of farmland. “My wife Lois and I are at retirement age now. Selling development rights on the original homestead farm that has been in our family since the 1890s would help us to pass it on to my son who is now a 5th generation cherry farmer.”

About Land Trust Alliance

The Land Trust Alliance is a national conservation group that works on behalf of the nation’s 1,700 land trusts to save the places people love by strengthening conservation nationwide. The Alliance works to increase the pace and quality of conservation by advocating favorable tax policies and training land trusts in best practices, and working to ensure the permanence of conservation in the face of continuing threats. Learn more »

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