WASHINGTON, Jan. 21, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The annual American Farmland Trust survey of state farm and ranch land protection programs shows a 19 percent increase in funding from 2011 to 2012, but funding levels are still 39 percent below where they were in 2008, according to Andrew McElwaine, President and CEO of AFT.
"State budget cuts have hit agricultural land protection programs hard in the last five years, but our latest survey shows a very significant 19 percent increase in funding from 2011 to 2012," said McElwaine. "This increase shows that a number of states have put a priority on protecting farmland, while state spending on environmental protection programs generally continues in a downward trend.
"But, if states had continued the same level of funding they had in 2008, we would have saved an additional 358,000 acres of agricultural land and purchased 2,000 additional farmland conservation easements," said McElwaine. "That's the gap AFT is working hard to narrow with our state partners."
Last year, American Farmland Trust worked with state partners in New York to increase farmland protection funding by $1 million and in Washington State to increase funding from $700,000 to $5.3 million.
The AFT survey released today shows states protected an additional 89,465 acres of agricultural land in 2012, acquiring 480 easements, and spent nearly $206 million. Overall since 1979, state farm and ranch land programs have protected 2,373,470 acres of agricultural land by acquiring 13,450 easements and spending a total of over $3.6 billion.
Colorado, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey and Vermont lead the 27 states with active farmland protection programs in the number of acres protected.
In terms of the percentage of farmland protected, New Jersey leads other states with 27 percent, Delaware with 21 percent, Maryland with 18 percent, Massachusetts with 13 percent and Vermont with 11 percent.
New Jersey also leads other states in the most money spent for farmland protection-- $975.1 million, followed by Pennsylvania with $853 million, Maryland with $672.3 million, Massachusetts with $214.2 million and Colorado with $170.5 million.
"While there is some optimism in our survey, the United States has been losing one acre of farmland every minute to development," said McElwaine. "In the face of a global need to double food production by 2050, that is unacceptable. We believe state, local and national governments must step up to the plate and do more to protect land and keep farmers farming."
In particular, McElwaine cited increased funding for the federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program contained in the recently-passed budget that provides matching funds for farmland protection.
AFT's Farmland Information Center conducts an annual survey of state and local programs throughout the country and makes results available through its Farmland Information Center. This year's survey is available by going to: http://www.farmlandinfo.org/pace-status-state-programs-2013.
American Farmland Trust is the nation's leading conservation organization dedicated to protecting farmland, promoting sound farming practices and keeping farmers on the land.
Andrew McElwaine, President & CEO, American Farmland Trust
Jennifer Dempsey, Director AFT Farmland Information Center
413-586-4593 ext. 13
SOURCE American Farmland Trust