American Farmland Trust Applauds Senate Farm Bill, Urges Additional Funding For Farmland Protection

Today, American Farmland Trust, the organization behind the national movement No Farms No Food, applauds Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Roberts’ and Ranking Member Stabenow’s bipartisan draft of the 2018 Farm Bill for maintaining the Conservation Title funding baseline, making improvements to the administration of the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) and including support for programs that benefit next-generation farmers.

AFT takes a holistic approach to saving farmland, recognizing the powerful connection between the land, good farming practices and the farmers and ranchers who raise the food we eat. The Senate Bill supports farming and farmers by maintaining funding of the Conservation Title and providing new, mandatory baseline funding for programs that assist next-generation farmers such as the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (contained in the Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach Program).

AFT commends the Committee for the program improvements and additional ACEP funding provided in the bill, and looks forward to continuing to work with the Committee throughout the legislative process to provide at least $500 million a year for this critical program that is needed to help slow the rate of farmland loss to development.

The loss of farmland to development is serious and accelerating. According to AFT’s recent report, “Farms Under Threat: The State of America’s Farmland”, 31 million acres were lost to development between 1992 and 2012, nearly twice the area of farmland was lost than was previously shown. ACEP is one of the most powerful tools available to protect farmland, effectively leveraging millions of dollars from other public and private sources to protect land. AFT has worked with state and local entities and agricultural land trusts — many of whom utilize ACEP funds — to protect over 6.5 million acres since its founding in 1980.

“We’re losing farmland at a rate of 175 acres per hour or 3 acres per minute. With ACEP funding at the $500 million level (as is proposed in the House Bill), the Farm Bill gives us a chance to stem the rapid loss of farmland,” urged John Piotti.

“In the next 10 to 15 years, one-third of agricultural land will change hands,” he continued. “When land is permanently protected by an easement it stays in farming. And it’s valued at its agricultural value instead of its development value, making it affordable for the next generation. Without adequate farmland protection we simply won’t have enough farms in the future to feed our growing population. We must act now to save the land that sustains us.”