Promotion of Intergenerational Farm Transfers for Agricultural Sustainability and Farmland Production
Four workshops, serving 198 individuals, addressed the topic of farm transitions and conservation easements. Workshops were oriented towards the professionals that serve farmers. Another six workshops, serving 272 individuals, targeted farmers directly, focusing on farm succession planning and farm financing. California FarmLink hosted the annual meeting of the National Farm Transition Network.
With the assistance of attorneys, California FarmLink updated farm transition/ conservation case studies to reflect the most current tax law and made them available from the web. A technical guide on affirmative farming clauses in conservation easements was summarized as a fact sheet to make it more accessible to non-technical readers
Goal 1: Facilitate understanding and adoption of conservation easements as part of farm transfers among agricultural professionals and producers: through training, printed materials and the Internet distribute information on transferring property for future agricultural production to at least 200 interested agricultural professionals and 200 producers in California and Washington.
Project goals for the two years period were to serve 200 professionals through 8 workshops, so we are far ahead of our goal, having essentially reached it during the first year.
With the assistance of attorneys, California FarmLink has updated case studies of farm transitions utilizing conservation easement to reflect the most current tax law, has made them available from the web, and has drafted new ones.
The first professional training workshop took place on June 12th, entitled ?Conservation and Agricultural Easements: A Professional Tool Kit?. The training was in Lincoln, CA (Placer County) in collaboration with the Placer Land Trust, Nevada County Land Trust, and Sierra Business Council. A total of 28 professionals attended, comprised of estate planning attorneys, CPA?s, financial planners, land trust staff members, and a county extension agent.
Workshops were presented by CPA?s, attorneys, agricultural lenders and appraisers with experience in handling conservation easements. Each brought to the breakout sessions their unique perspective, providing a well-rounded and fully informative day about the different aspects of the conservation easement process. Please see the included photocopied pages from the workshop training materials.
The second training, held as part of the National Farm Transition Network Annual Meeting, took place on July 12th at the Westerbeke Conference Center near Sonoma, CA. Attorney Ann Schwing and tax attorney Jim Leet, presenters at the June workshop, joined FarmLink again to present on the topics of ?Innovative Easement Language in Farm Succession Planning? and ?Financial and Tax Ramifications of Conservation Easements?. FarmLink staff, Steve Schwartz (PI for the project) presented at the workshop along with the attorneys and farmer, land-use conservation Michael Abelman. Schwartz, Abelman and Schwing fielded questions about ?affirmative language? in conservation easements from attorneys and land-use professionals in attendance. FarmLink worked closely with Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District and American Ag Credit for local sponsorship. A total of 55 people were in attendance, including farm transition organization staff and state agricultural officials from around the country, and local professionals from the North Bay region. In addition, a couple of interested landowners attended with their attorneys. Please see the included booklet that was provided to participants at the workshop.
The overall National Farm Transition Network Annual Meeting and Conference was a great success and provided an excellent professional development opportunity for professionals from several regions including California and Washington in the Western Region. Farm linking organizations from 13 states and Canada each gave presentations on strategies and successes in their states, sharing ideas for programs and policies that could be adopted by others. The tour on Saturday afternoon included a visit to a farm leased out by the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District. This farm modeled the use of a conservation easement and a long-term agricultural lease, as well as the partnership between the county organization and California FarmLink in finding a beginning farmer to utilize the land.
The third workshop was a presentation on farmland conservation through ?farmlinks? and easements was made as part of the California Community Colleges in Agriculture and Natural Resources Mid-Winter Institute on December 6th in Palm Desert, CA. Approximately 70 community college agricultural instructors attended. FarmLink staff member Danielle LeGrand made the presentation, discussing the loss of farmlands in California, the goal of FarmLink to assist beginning farmers, and the role and importance of conservation easements in helping preserve farmlands for the next generation. In general, the audience was less informed about conservation easements than the other professional groups had been, therefore this was the first time that many of them were provided with a definition and discussion on the topic. A handout was provided, along with a case study examining how a beginning farmer could use the sale of a conservation easement to put his or her financing together. Please see the included materials.
AERO organized a workshop entitled: ?Working the Land for Generations to Come? as part of a conference entitled Big Sky or Big Sprawl. The highly successful statewide conference was held in Helena, Montana and c0-sponsored by the Montana Smart Growth Coalition. It focused on the economic benefits of good land-use planning and attracted 250 participants in total.
Panelists included: a conservation realtor, a program officer for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, a director for the state?s largest land trust, and a policy analyst/planning board member. Information was provided on conservation easements, conservation home sites, Farm Bill conservation opportunities and establishment of exclusive agricultural zoning districts. The panel presented an overview of the information from the publication: Working the Land for Generations to Come: Preserving the Rural Quality of Life. Two other workshops presented complimentary information on the future for Montana agriculture and most effective tools for protecting agricultural land.
Information participants intend to share include: Working the Land for Generations to Come booklet, which was handed out at the workshop; fact sheets (NRCS and Montana Land Reliance), referral information for landowners and clients, writing and publishing information.
The workshop was held November 22nd and 15 percent of those filling out an evaluation selected the Working the Land for Generations to Come as the best workshop of the 13 workshops offered at the conference. Of the 45 participants attending the Working the Land workshop, 14 completed an evaluation form for a 31 percent response rate. Based on evaluation forms submitted we estimate that 26 of the total workshop attendees were professionals (i.e. attorneys, nonprofit org. staff). Workshop elements that participants rated highly were: the experience and knowledge of the panelists, the variety of approaches to solve the same problem, learning more about conservation real estate, and learning about some of the Farm Bill programs.
Goal 2: Develop information about techniques regarding maintaining farmland in agricultural production targeting farmers committed to using sustainable cultivation and husbandry techniques: through training, printed materials and the Internet distribute information on transferring property for future sustainable agricultural production to at least 200 interested agricultural professionals and 200 producers.
The technical guide on affirmative farming clauses in agricultural conservation easements that FarmLink created with attorneys last year (correct?) was summarized this year as a fact sheet to make it more accessible to non-technical readers and distributed to (# of people). A presentation of this material was also given at two of the professional training workshops mentioned above. In addition, California FarmLink wrote a contributing article entitled ?Easements and Partnerships: Helping California Farmers Stand Their Ground? in the Community Food Security Coalition publication Weaving the Food Web. California FarmLink?s web-site received an average of 675 ?hits? a month during the reporting period.
Goal 3: Facilitate farm transitions by serving as a one-stop clearinghouse of resources for agricultural professionals and producers seeking information strategies for financing farmland preservation, estate planning, and planning a new farming enterprise.
Services related to farm transitions offered by California FarmLink and AERO are publicized through our web-sites, newsletters, direct mailings and outreach and conferences and other events. Copies of materials are made available to professionals at minimal cost or for free.
In addition to workshops described under Goal 1, six workshops hosted by California FarmLink in Fresno, Stanislaus, Marin, Santa Barbara, Sonoma and Contra Costa counties provided information to beginning and retiring farmers on the topics of farm succession planning, farm financing and business planning, and the role that conservation programs can play. The Sonoma event was held July 11th in conjunction with the National Farm Transition Network Conference. In total 272 individuals attended this second category of workshop. The vast majority of attendees were farmers, however professionals also attended the workshops which were supported primarily by the USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant program. Professionals included agricultural commissioners staff, cooperative extension staff, attorneys and others.
California FarmLink, with project partner, AERO, has organized 4 workshops addressing conservation easements in farm transitions serving 198 individuals. Professionals from at least three Western Region states were served. Both organizations are serving as a clearinghouse of resources for professionals regarding farm transitions. Partnerships have been established with the Bar Association, various land trusts, cooperative extension, USDA Farm Service Agency and others to publicize trainings and services. We have developed materials for workshops to be held during the remainder of the project.
A goal that was not accomplished to FarmLink?s satisfaction this past year was gaining the involvement and interest of governmental agricultural staff in workshops. Mailings were made to all Farm Service Agencies, Cooperative Extension Offices and Natural Resource Conservation District offices in the regions of the professional development workshops, yet no staff attended. FarmLink will need to increase its outreach and determine how to adjust it?s program to interest these groups more in the coming year. A meeting with the state FSA Executive Director is scheduled for January of 2003 to discuss this topic, among others.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
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