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Farmland preservation grants to 4 Michigan farms
By KEVIN WALKER
Michigan Correspondent

WASHTENAW COUNTY, Mich. — Four farms in three Washtenaw County townships have been awarded federal grants to prevent the conversion of the farms to nonagricultural uses. Although each township is seeking outside matching funds to complete the deals, the townships will probably be able to complete the transactions with or without outside help.

The farms included in the USDA’s Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) this year in Michigan are: the Davenport farm in western Scio Township, which will receive $310,000 for 62 acres; the Wing farm in Scio Township, which will receive $462,000 for 180 acres; the Geddes farm in Pittsfield Township, which will receive $350,000 for 70 acres; and the Alexander farm in Northfield Township, which will receive $335,000 for 70 acres.

The Barry County Agriculture Preservation Program will also receive $275,000 from the program to preserve 202 acres.

“We’re very excited about this year,” said James Marshall, program manager of the FRPP in East Lansing, Mich.

Marshall said the program money is gone for the current year, and that he doubts there will be more funds available this year, since “money is tight.”

The total spent on the program in Michigan this year was $1.75 million.

“We’re absolutely delighted,” said Jan Ben Dor, deputy clerk for Pittsfield Township. “We’re optimistic that we’ll be able to finish the acquisition of the land.”

Ben Dor wrote the grant for Pittsfield Township.

“This is tremendous news,” said Barry Lonik, a consultant for Scio and Pittsfield Townships. “These are unique, wonderful properties.”

According to Lonik Scio Township has a dedicated millage to fund the land preservation deal to the tune of $2.5 million, but he said it would be helpful to find other sources for funds.

“We’re always trying to spread our dollars out as much as possible,” Lonik said.

According to Marshall, local governments usually have the funds to complete the deals. The localities are “very committed to what they’re doing.”

The USDA works through state, tribal and local governments as well as non-governmental organizations to conduct the FRPP. These entities acquire conservation easements from interested landowners. The landowners in turn agree not to convert their land to non-agricultural uses and to implement a conservation plan.

To qualify for FRPP, the land must be part or all of a farm or ranch, and must contain prime, unique, or other productive soil, historical or archaeological resources. It must be privately owned and covered by a conservation plan, and it must be large enough to sustain agricultural production, and be accessible to markets for what the land produces.

Parcels of land that can support long-term agricultural production must also surround the land.

There is also a $2.5 million income limit on the individual or group that owns the land in question, in addition to other requirements.

For more details on the FRPP, go to www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/farm bill/2002

This farm news was published in the July 19, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.

7/19/2006