Ecosystem Services in Working Lands: US Northeast

4.2.2.1 Production of specialty crops and “foodsheds”

• Multi-state and statewide programs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and Specialty Crop Multi-State Program offer grants to supporting institutions in order to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops. This is done by funding collaborative, multi-state projects that address regional or national level specialty crop issues such as food safety, plant pests and disease, as well as research, marketing, and promotion. Other state programs include efforts to influence state food purchasing, as is seen with the New York State Finance Law (“SFL”) §165(4), which empowers state agencies purchasing food products to require that some or all of the food products be grown, harvested, produced, or processed in New York state. Similar programs, like the Maryland Certified Local Farm Enterprise Program, encourage state agencies, including public four-year universities, to increase the amount of food they purchase from certified local farm enterprises. These are just two examples of a number of similar programs available in states across the U.S. Northeast. • Programs for municipal and county administrators. These include programs like the County Planning Incentive Grant from New Jersey, which is a new program that encourages a comprehensive planning process for farmland preservation at the county-level. Programs like this offer several advantages over the traditional easement purchase program, including enabling counties to accept and process farmland preservation applications year-round, rather than once a year. They also reduce the timeframe from landowner application to closing and reward counties that complete transactions in a timely manner with the potential for additional funding. In Maine, any town may develop and codify a Voluntary Municipal Farm Support Program to enter into “farm support arrangements” with eligible farmland owners. Those farmland o wners, who are formally accepted by a town’s legislative body, may then grant a 20 -year agricultural conservation easement to the town in exchange for full or partial reimbursement of property taxes on their farmland and farm buildings during that 20-year period. In West Virginia, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) Foodshed Development Program operates across a number of scales, between the municipality and businesses as well as between the municipality and the county, to create a network of partners capable of developing a hyper-local food system. In Maryland, the Sustainable Maryland Certification is a prestigious designation for municipal governments in the state. Municipalities that achieve this certification are considered by their peers, by state government, and by the experts and civic organizations in Maryland, to be among the leading municipalities in sustainability. All actions taken by municipalities to score points toward certification must be accompanied by documentary evidence and are reviewed. Such a municipal certification program, while rigorous and meaningful, is nevertheless free and voluntary.

4.2.2.2 Food production in schools and cities

Beyond those from governmental institutions, there are a number of programs in this category that are available for supporting institutions, such as schools, to fund either school gardens or farm-to-school programs. Of note are the New Jersey School Garden grant and the Pennsylvania Farm-to-School grant; however, there are a variety of other programs available across the U.S. Northeast. Conservation Districts are important supporting institutions that make such programs available. The National Association for Conservation Districts (NACD), for example, maintains an Urban Agriculture Conservation (UAC) Grant Initiative, which is designed to enhance districts’ urban agriculture conservation technical assistance activities in developed and developing areas of urban and rural communities. Through these grants, conservation districts increased their capacity related to urban technical assistance and small- scale conservation, while addressing community needs in rural and urban contexts.

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