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Ag land protection key to climate strategy

The American Farmland Trust says increasing support of agricultural conservation easements in the next farm bill would provide long-term climate benefits.

Senior Policy Advisor Cris Coffin tells Brownfield recent research with Purdue University finds easements are the reason farmers invest more in conservation practices.

“I think one of the most important benefits is that folks who have protected their farm or ranch understand that they are now in it for the long haul, not just for them, but for the generations to come,” she says.

She says other benefits include avoiding land conversion to uses with higher greenhouse gas emissions, reducing conversion of marginal land into production, and protecting more woods and wetlands.

“They are able to reinvest in infrastructure on the farm or to pay down debt, or to expand an operation,” she says. “All of those things are super important in terms of the sustainability of an operation for future generations.”

Policy Director Tim Fink says demand for ag easement programs far exceeds enrollment.

“Through a combination of local, state, federal, even including private efforts, nearly eight million acres of farm and ranch land have been permanently protected across the country,” he says. “And this is a really significant achievement, but at the same time, it represents less than one percent of our nation’s total agricultural land.”

He says research has found about 2,000 acres of productive farmland and ranchland are lost to or threatened by development every day in the U.S.

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