We are involved in the Farmland Preservation movement here in Michigan. Years ago, The Farmer went on a bus tour out to Maryland and Pennsylvania to see their efforts to keep farmland from being gobbled up by development. He was impressed. Beautiful housing developments on one side of the highway, and miles of farmland on the other. Room for both.
Since that time, he's gone to years of committee meetings and board meetings, pursuing what he saw out east. With no discernible results. Discouraged much?
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The other day I read a newspaper headline: Support waning for farmland preservation in ____ County. One of the nearby counties that had set aside money for purchase of development rights (PDR) was now backing away from the program. Blame them? Not really. Times are tight in Michigan and all over. Who has money for these things? And the PDR program is not without its faults and certainly not without its opponents.
A related way to preserve farmland is the transfer of development rights (TDR) which doesn't actually use public money. But in this time of slow development, it also is not really viable.
I have talked to folks who do not realize why we need to work on preserving farmland now, when there is very little pressure from urban/suburban sprawl. I have an easy answer for that. You put the structure in place before the pressure ramps up again, so that you are not scrambling to put it in place once things ramp up again. It is too late to get a tetanus vaccine when you feel your jaw seizing.
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I have also talked to people who think that there is no reason at all to preserve farmland, now or ever. I would like to ask these people (and sometimes do) whether or not they have eaten recently. Eating is an agricultural act; the preserving of farmland affects the farmer and the non-farmer alike. Furthermore, sourcing our food (domestically vs. internationally) is a national security issue. Think about it.
Often I feel defeated in this quest. And the thing that bothers me the most when I'm arguing the issue is that if farmers were paid a living wage for what they do, the whole issue of farmland preservation would be a moot point, not even worth discussing.
I would like to say it again. If farmers were paid a fair wage for what they produce, there would be no need for farmland preservation initiatives.