Greetings colleagues!

I hope you're enjoying these summer days. Phase two of the  Land Access Project (LAP2) continues the work of over 40 collaborating groups to improve farm access and transfer throughout New England. With renewed funding from the USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, we're working to improve farm link programs, explore innovative land access methods, train advisors to assist farm transfers, and build state support networks.

We're sharing current  news from our project work and related items of interest. We invite you to  learn more about this important work and see how you can benefit from -and contribute to it. Watch for notices about workshops, other events, new guides and reports, and more through this three-year regional collaboration.

Best regards,

Kathy Ruhf
Senior Program Director
LAP Newsletter, Summer 2017
National Conference dares to ask most difficult questions

Over 220 attendees from 40 states shared their expertise, experiences and perspectives in Denver, Colorado this past June 13-15. In 5 plenary panels and 35 breakout sessions, we tackled difficult questions such as those raised by Neil Hamilton, Drake University Agricultural Law Center, in his opening plenary statement.
Who owns the land? Who farms it? How is it farmed? And who benefits?
  LFG hosted the conference in cooperation with USDA. Chris Beyerhelm, USDA's Acting Administrator for the Farm Service Agency, and Lilia McFarland, USDA's New and Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program Coordinator, offered opening and closing remarks respectively and participated throughout the conference along with other USDA staff,  " This was such a special gathering for so many reasons - not the least of which was the thoughtful attention to the creation and support of multiple diverse communities of discussion within the larger topic," commented McFarland.

Ambitious work tackled in second year of LAP2

August 31st marks the end of year 2 of LAP, phase 2. LAP continues to strengthen us as a learning community. As we engage in various aspects of farm access and transfer in New England, it's important to reflect on all we have accomplished together. From hosting workshops for new and beginning farmers and partnering on farm linking programs to developing curriculum for farm transfer planning, w e continue to gather summaries of this second year and will report more on these in the coming months.


Contact Andrew Marshall, LFG Education Director, if you have an idea for an event in your state.
State-level partners expand land access programs

LAP partners from each New England state have been actively collaborating to move land access programs and policies forward. State-level collaborations have expanded programming on the ground and fostered policy change. From delivering farm transfer workshops, to evaluating state listing and linking services, to identifying additional agricultural conservation easement funding. Partners have advanced their state's land access and transfer goals.  Read about the exciting efforts that are underway in your state... 

New England attorneys & other providers learn from cross-training to serve transitioning farmers

Nearly 60 experienced and new attorneys, business and financial planners, accountants, land trust and conservation staff, and lenders from across New England explored the complex legal and technical issues of farm succession and transfer planning in May in Manchester, NH. LAP's Succession & Transfer Assistance Task Force  developed this  two-day  professional training so that professional advisors can build knowledge, skills and networks to better serve exiting farm families. "This training improved my ability to work with - and identified several key issues that I need to be on the lookout for - when speaking with farm clients," said one participant. The task force will produce a comprehensive legal desk reference from the training materials. It will be available online later this year

LAP Task Forces take the lead!

All LAP task forces are making great progress on specific deliverables.  Here's a summary of task force outputs, progress and plans: 

The Succession & Transfer Assistance Task Force  unveiled the new Farm Transfer Network of New England website and has begun marketing this resource hub to new farm transfer providers who want to get listed in its
 searchable database. Members developed and delivered a three-session  Farm Succession School, that was conducted over two months in ME, VT and NH that assisted nine farm families. A Southern New England Farm Succession will take place next in MA, CT and RI; dates will be announced soon!  The task force also developed and conducted  professional training for farm succession planning advisors  this spring (see above).  Engaging transitioning farmers to do proactive planning remains a challenge in our region and nationally. For more information, contact task force leader, Annette Higby at annette.higby@comcast.net.

The Listing and Linking Task Force formed the New England Farm Link Collaborative (NEFLC) , comprised of the region's linking programs. Together they host New England Farmland Finder, a regional farm property website they recently upgraded with improved, device-responsive functioning, and other features. NEFLC cross-posts farm properties and collaborate on education and outreach.  The task force also conducted a survey of farm link site users, and their findings show that 
over 80% of seekers
 
and over 60% of landowners find members' linking program search tools useful. For more information, contact task force leader, Ben Waterman at 
ben.waterman@uvm.edu.

The Tenure Innovations Task Force's  six committees are capturing, analyzing and sharing program and policy innovations in New England and nationally. The committees are examining the evolution of agricultural easements, and the challenges around affordable farmer housing and urban land access. They focus on shared ownership models, paths to ownership and non-traditional partners, and hosted a convening on farmer and farm labor housing. Using an evolving framework of types of tenure models, members analyze models with respect to legal arrangements, equity-building, security, affordability, stewardship, and risks and benefits sharing. Advantages and disadvantages will be compared across the types of models which range from traditional to cutting-edge. For more information, contact task force leader, Bob Wagner at bwagner954@yahoo.com.

Policy plays important role in land access & transfer

Public policy plays an important role in our endeavors, and many of us work on it. At the Federal level, a new administration and upcoming Farm Bill set the framework for LFG and colleagues to produce policy proposals on land access and transfer.  Outside the Farm Bill, tax reform is a policy target, such as capital gains exclusions on farm sales, and beginning farmer tax credits. Our region leads the nation in state policy innovation in areas of farmland protection and mitigation, land restoration for agriculture, land availability and affordability, and farm transition. For example:
  • estate tax changes in Vermont and Massachusetts
  • solar siting bill in Vermont
  • voluntary municipal farm support program in Maine
  • state land access program in Rhode Island
  • land Conservation Plan pending in New Hampshire 
  • Revisions to a Connecticut statute allowing greater support for farm linking and transfer 
With core support from other funders, LFG and its LAP colleagues continue to work on state and federal policy initiatives.
 
 
Contact Cris Coffin, LFG Policy Director, to learn more about these efforts and state networking priorities.
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The Land Access Project is funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture through its Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, Grant # 2015-04544. The project is directed by Land For Good and involves over 40 collaborating organizations, agencies and individual experts in six New England states.
Land For Good | 39 Central Square, Suite 306, Keene, NH 03431 | 603.357.1600