A Publication of the Town of Bayfield
TOWN OF BAYFIELD PASSES FARMLAND PRESERVATION PROGRAM
By all accounts, houses and new businesses have sprouted slowly but steadily in the Town of Bayfield in recent years. And this makes residents who don't want lots of neighbors nervous.
In an effort to address Town growth, elected officials and residents in 1994 prepared a land use plan to help guide the Town's future. Surveys revealed that town residents wanted to keep the rural character of this region known for its apple orchards and berry farms. In fact, the number one goal of the final land use plan is to "Preserve productive and potentially productive agricultural land (with special emphasis given to microclimate fruit industry) and to maintain agriculture as a major economic activity and way of life."
Town officials took another step last spring in the direction of farmland
In essence, the Town wants to make farming more attractive so selling off land for development becomes less so, says town chairman Tom Gordon. The specifics of how the program will work are undecided, but the goal is clear: to preserve the orchard country known for its tasty fruit and sweeping Lake Superior views.
The Town Board noted that escalating land values have prompted landowners to sell their agricultural land for development. Of the Town's 57,000, there is an estimated 4,000 acres of farmland. Of that, an estimated one-third to one-half is producing food. Farmland Preservation Committee chairman Rick Dale discovered that in a survey of 36 farms, two-thirds of the tillable land was not in production. "It's this idle land that is the vulnerable land," he says, noting it's very tempting for farmers to sell off 40 acres here and there that they're not using for production.
As part of its Farmland Preservation Program resolution, town officials agreed to allocate funds that will be used to encourage farmers to farm instead of develop their land. This year, the Town allocated $10,000 in tax dollars for a segregated, non-lapsing farmland fund. Gordon anticipates they will keep "adding to the pot" which will most likely be used to purchase development rights (PDR), a program where the community buys a tract of land's development rights from a farmer. Farmers, who choose to participate, agree to permanently restrict their land for agricultural use and open space.
The Farmland Preservation Program was awarded a $5,000 grant from the Mary H. Rice Foundation for education and community outreach, including this newsletter. The Town formed a committee to create a comprehensive plan for farmland preservation. The nine-person committee has been meeting the last year and recently completed the following mission statement and goals.
2 Protect and preserve the agricultural resources of the Town of Bayfield. Bayfield has a base of existing farms that provide economic and social benefits to the Town. Bayfield has areas of uniquely suited farmland that should be maintained in farming. The Town of Bayfield's microclimate has the potential for continuing to provide opportunities for high value diversified farming now and in the future. This will provide security for farmers and their children, and will allow citizens and Town officials to plan for the future with increased confidence and security.
3 Support and implement local and State farmland protection policies. Bayfield's town plan sets goals for its agricultural resources that include: "preservation of productive farmlands as a resource for future generations, maintaining agriculture as a major economic activity, limiting development on prime farmland, and guiding density and location of residential development." The state of Wisconsin's Farmland Preservation Program and Use-Value Assessment program are intended to encourage protection of farmland.
4 Provide financial incentives for landowners who agree to protect farmland. The costs for preserving agricultural lands and open space for the benefit of the larger community can be a heavy burden for the land owner. Land taxes are assessed, in part, according to current development value of the property. Also, land owners preserving agricultural lands and open space deny themselves the financial benefits derived from subdividing and developing their holdings.
5 The town of Bayfield will work closely with the City of Bayfield in matters that relate to or potentially affect farmland or agricultural resources and open spaces. Recognizing that the City of Bayfield and the Town of Bayfield have many interests and goals in common, the town will inform the city of its agricultural needs, reserves and plans and cooperate with planning efforts that are consistent with the goals and objectives of the Town of Bayfield Land Use Plan.
Q. What Are Development Rights?
Q. What is Purchase of Development Rights (PDR)?
Q. What is a conservation easement?
Q. What restrictions are found in a typical easement?
Q. How does an easement affect other rights of ownership?
Q. Does a conservation easement grant public access to land?
Q. Does a conservation easement affect a farmer's ability to borrow money?
The following article is reprinted with permission from May 2001 edition of Fruit Growers News.
In 1993, American Farmland Trust (AFT) published its first Farming on the
Edge map and study. Since then, the rate of farmland disappearance has increased
to nearly 1.2 million acres per year.
Recent analysis by AFT has revealed something that many growers may have known intuitively for years: more than half the value of United States farm production was generated in counties in and around urban areas.
The number one most endangered area is Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys in central California. The area stretching down the center of California and encompassing 19,140 square miles, is one of the nation's most important agricultural resources, producing 250 different commodities worth more than $13 billion a year.
The population growth in counties with the highest agricultural productivity was more than twice the national average, according to Robyn Miller, media relations specialist with AFT.
"The farming on the edge study looks at land using three criteria: soil quality, development pressure on the land, and the agricultural market value of the land," said Miller. "Our study really pointed out is that it is the best farmland that we are losing."
All farmland , as growers know, is not created equal, and the study sought to take unique natural characteristics into account. These characteristics that often support fruit, vegetable and specialized crops, often occur in the same place that developers desire. As Miller says, you can't grow blueberries in Kansas.
The current expansion pressures are related to how our ancestors settled the land near the most fertile farmland. "Because of the way the U.S. was settled, the cities grew out of the areas that held the best farmland," said Miller. "It is the farmland surrounding urban areas that is the best in terms of the amount of output that it produces when compared to the total inputs. Often, things can be grown on farmland near urban areas that can't be grown any place else."
Unfortunately, the best farmland is disappearing at the fastest rate.
The Northern Piedmont region, composed primarily of parts of Maryland, New
"The primary tool that AFT is supporting is the purchase of development rights (PDR) which are publicly funded farmland protection programs, said Miller. The AFT recently honored Pennsylvania for its PDR program.
"There is a federal farmland protection program that has just received $17.5 million in funding," according to Miller.
Generally, PDR programs work by allowing the locality to buy the development
rights to the land from the farmer. In turn, the farmer agrees to permanently
protect that land from development.
"There are processes that communities that are serious about protecting their resources should go through," she said.
According to the study, every state lost some of its best prime and unique farmland to urban development. Much of the prime and unique farmland threatened by development is adjacent to major metropolitan areas, Miller pointed out. The research also indicated that the gradual dispersal of the nation's population into smaller, less densely settled cities and towns is having an impact on high quality farmland.
The study recognizes concerns about the impact of urban growth on the availability of land for agriculture that have persisted for the last 50 years, intensifying in the early 1970s when international demands for United States agricultural commodities soared.
AFT suggests that USDA, the Commerce Department, state departments of agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency work together to quantify the impact of farmland conversion on key parameters such as water quality, air quality, wildlife populations, rural economic health, crop production, distribution of produce, agricultural imports and regional food security.
States should develop similar inventories and systems for tracking the fate of farmland, especially strategic farmland as they define the concept to fit their own needs, Miller suggests.
Every state with land in one of the top 20 threatened resources should take specific measures to protect this farmland. Those steps should include a statewide inventory and tracking system for strategic farmland to drive policy and programs.
The organization also suggests that the Federal Farmland Protection Policy Act be strengthened and enforced. All levels of government should review policies affecting land use decisions of landowners and eliminate those that discourage the retention of quality farmland.
The AFT also endorses the revision of federal and state estate taxes to help keep agricultural land in the hands of farm families committed to continue farming. Estate taxes can cause farmland to be sold for development because intergenerational transfers have become very costly for most farm families. For more information on the AFT and their recent study visit: www.farmland.org.
By Lisa W. Foderaro
Instead, they will let the fruit fall to the ground this fall. And they are spending their days indoors, in dry contract negotiations with housing developers for the sale of all 650 acres of their orchards -- preparing the obituary, in essence, of a family business that stretches back to the 1920's.
"This is the first time in my life that I have not had a crop to tend to," said Bill Palladino, 58, who owns Hudson Valley Farms with his son, Jeff, 31. "It's definitely a naked feeling. You get emotionally attached to your trees, your orchards, your way of life. You miss that."
That is becoming a familiar refrain in Ulster County, the second largest apple-producing county in the stat, second only to Washington in apple production. Decisions like the Palladino's reflect enormous changes here and for struggling apple growers around the country.
After several years of losing money in a depressed market that has devastated apple farmers nationwide, the Palladinos and at least five other growers in the county are selling out. They are taking advantage of the wave of suburban sprawl lapping at the edges of this county 75 miles north of Manhattan.
In the process, a county where bosky ridges and clear creeks always seemed a safe distance from the city, a place where understated hamlets have captivated permanent residents and weekenders alike, is wondering what the shriveling of the apple industry will bring.
"It's a big concern -- that all this green space will be turned into development," said Suzanne Hauspurg, who, with her husband, Dan, owns the Inn at Stone Ridge. Trying to protect their corner of Eden, the two recently bought a 110-acre apple orchard behind their inn that a builder had been considering.
The apple growers here are not cashing in so much as they are staving off financial ruin. They say that money that arrived last week from the federal government, part of a nationwide program to compensate growers for market losses with a maximum payment of $28,295, represents a tiny bandage when what they need is a tourniquet. Some are equally unimpressed with a state program that helps counties buy development rights from farmers but that has yet to produce any final agreements that would keep Ulster land in agriculture.
Since the early 1990's, farmers across the country have suffered as production costs have risen and apple prices have fallen: the result of a worldwide glut of apples, imports of cheap apple-juice concentrate from China, and a continuing consolidation among retailers that reduces farmers' bargaining power. In addition, countries like South Africa, Chile and New Zealand have emerged as major exporters of fresh apples to the United States.
Last year, the United States International Trade Commission voted unanimously to put punitive anti-dumping duties on apple juice concentrate from China. But some growers say Chinese concentrate is still cheaper than American, even with the imposition of the 52 percent duty.
"Not since the Great Depression have apple growers sustained such losses," said Kraig Naasz, president and chief executive officer of the United States Apple Association in McLean, Va. He said that nationwide, apple farmers have lost $1.5 billion in the past five years. "This coming harvest may mark the last for as many as 30 percent of the nation's apple growers," he said.
The for-sale signs popping up across Ulster County's orchards are not new, but they mark a startling acceleration of a trend that began more than a decade ago. In 1985, 104 farms covered 11,629 acres in Ulster County. By the end of 1996, the most recent year for which statistics are available, the number of farms had fallen to 63 on 8,632 acres.
Apple farming has continued to dwindle since then, with production ending on more than 1,500 acres in the last year alone.
"You could probably call most growers, and they've got pieces of land up for sale," said Michael J. Fargione, an educator with Cornell cooperative Extension, a program of Cornell University that provides research information and educational programs to farmers. "I'm not sure people are aware of the critical point we're at in terms of the potential for the loss of farms."
Ulster County is now trying to buy development rights from farmers under
a state program that would ensure that the land is reserved for agricultural
use even if it is sold. But, the process is slow. Two years ago, 17 farmers
in the county applied, and the state, which contributes 75 percent of the
purchase cost, chose two. But those two farmers, both apple growers in Clintondale,
have yet to sell.
"It's time-consuming to have the farmers think about all the possibilities and put it into an agreement that is perpetual," he said. "they rely on this land for their livelihood.
But as a resident of Ulster, Mr. McKee also knows that time is a luxury neither the county nor the apple industry has. "It's very painful to watch the impact of suburban sprawl heading north, but that's all the more reason why these programs are vital," he said. "For weekenders and local folks who have been here for generations, it's the loss of a sense of place. For the farm families, it's hard to watch what used to be a vast expanse being nibbled away."
TOWN OF BAYFIELD FARMLAND PRESERVATION BEGINNINGS
81.5 percent of people who responded felt that efforts should be taken to protect the Town's existing agricultural lands which support its unique fruit/orchard industry.
78.1 percent would promote the preservation of the rural characteristics of the area. Also, 67.7 percent said yes to the importance of minimizing scattered development and conflicting land uses without discouraging desirable and needed rural development.
Kim Bro, director of the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute, spoke eloquently about the work of these 24 groups and projects, with slides projected on a big screen.
The annual program annually brings in speakers from areas that have faced challenges similar to those facing the Chequamegon Bay Area. A few years ago, Pie & Politics featured a speaker from Michigan's cherry growing region to talk about efforts there to preserve farms.
"The Town of Bayfield has started a farmland preservation program based on a lot of what we learned" from that, event organizer Ruth Oppedahl told the Duluth News Tribune.
This year Michael Jacobs, outreach director form the Center of Wisconsin Strategy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison was the featured speaker.
The event attracted a good crowd of about 200 people who enjoyed pie and conversation afterwards.
Apple orchards are the backbone of the Town of Bayfield's agricultural industry. Other agricultural pursuits include growing berries, tree fruits, flowers, perennial nurseries, vegetables and Christmas trees, as well as some honey and dairy production. Both conventional and organic farming methods are practiced.
BAYFIELD CITY SURVEY
Q. How important are the following to your quality of life in Bayfield?
The percentages refer to people who responded "very important" to the question.
trees & vegetation 73%