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Spreading the No Farms No Food Message in New England

By Ben Bowell, American Farmland Trust Blog (4/20/11)

  APRIL 25, 2011 --

State-level programs and policies have an enormous impact on farming.  State actions can help save land or fuel its loss; they can encourage profitable farming, or inhibit it.  That is why we can be found each year in state legislatures around New England, advocating for measures and funding that help improve farm profitability and retain our working lands.  This year, our No Farms No Food® message was well received by lawmakers at recent “Ag Days” held at the Connecticut Capitol and Massachusetts State House.  These days represent key opportunities to celebrate agriculture and highlight the importance of farmland preservation to lawmakers.

On March 16th, members of the Working Lands Alliance, a farmland protection coalition that we lead in Connecticut, helped showcase the importance of agriculture in that state—a sector that contributes $3.5 billion to the state’s economy.  We joined Gov. Dannel Malloy, newly appointed Commissioner of Agriculture Steven Reviczky and other legislators in sampling the tremendous diversity of Connecticut-grown foods.  We spoke with state leaders about our legislative priorities, especially the importance of new funding for farmland preservation in this tough economic climate.

Three weeks later, we were back with lawmakers, this time at the Massachusetts State House, reminding them how important our farms and farmland are to our economy, environment, and food security. No Farms No Food® buttons, provided by Peeled Snacks, were a huge hit and were seen around the building. We were excited that Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Richard Sullivan highlighted Gov. Deval Patrick’s continued commitment to funding for farmland preservation. Gov. Patrick used the day to announce appointments to the new Massachusetts Food Policy Council—which has been a high priority for us. We also joined with the Massachusetts Farm Bureau and other farm organizations in advocating for state policy changes.

And on May 12, we will join members of the Rhode Island Agricultural Partnership, state officials and lawmakers at the Rhode Island Capitol to unveil a new five-year strategic plan for agriculture in that state.  This plan, which we have helped to facilitate, will provide a road map of needed actions and investments in agriculture to support the business and land use needs of the state’s growing agricultural sector.

Opportunities like this to educate lawmakers about the impact of state policies and programs on local farms are critically important.  While organized by farmers, these Ag Days benefit all of us who care about the future of local farms and farmland.

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