Preservation of our nation’s farmlands is a topic dear to my heart. My grandfather delivered milk and ice with a horse and buggy in upstate New York and owned a dairy farm. Some of my favorite memories are helping out on and exploring the farm during our brief visits. At less than five years-old, my uncle propped me up on the seat of the John Deere while it slowly creeped across the field and my family lifted bales of hay onto a wagon behind me. I'm no farming expert, but I do know where my food comes from and that it isn’t an easy way to make a living. The farm where my mom was raised is now a golf course and her bedroom the pro shop.
I am also an environmentalist and land preservationist. For several decades, I have volunteered and served on the boards of various Michigan nonprofits to acquire and protect natural areas. As an intern for The Nature Conservancy in college, I wrote a brochure explaining how landowners could use conservation easements to both protect their land in perpetuity as well as benefiting from reduced property taxes.
I have been reading about and support the idea of enabling better land access for beginning, underserved and family farmers. As you probably know, due to soaring land prices caused by speculative investing by multinational corporations and the shortage of available farmland to purchase, many young and BIPOC farmers cannot afford or find their own farmland. What I would suggest is making land more accessible to beginning, underserved and family farmers by combining low interest loans with sustainable agricultural conservation easements on the land purchased by this proposed program. This would provide family farmers with affordable capital to purchase land, reduce the taxes on their land and permanently protect agricultural land into perpetuity. My understanding is that most current government conservation programs for farmers are voluntary and not permanent.
This farmland preservation and sustainable agricultural program that I propose will also have the benefit of supporting the America the Beautiful initiative's 30 x 30 goal, to conserve 30% of our natural and agricultural lands by 2030. The timing for such a program is perfect because about a third of the 3.4 million farmers in the United States are over 65, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s census published in 2019. This means that the ownership of 40 percent of America’s agricultural land will be in transition within the next 15 years. With few of these aging farmers having family that want to take over the farm, many farmers are trying to figure out the future of their farms and most really don’t want to sell to developers. Many of these farms have been in the same family for more than 100 years. At the same time, young people wanting to enter the farming industry can’t find affordable land to lease or purchase.
I'm writing to hope you'll keep this idea in your mind as you are working on the 2023 Farm Bill, the Increasing Land Access, Security, and Opportunities Act, and future legislative efforts.
Commerce Twp, Michigan
Joseph Biden, US President
Kamla Harris, US VP
Debbie Stabenow, US Senator
Gary Peters, US Senator
Haley Steven, US Representative