Viable Agriculture for the Future
Agriculture is first and foremost a business, and its retention depends on farmers having access to viable technologies, programs, and markets. Simply preserving farmland without tending to the viability of agriculture does not address its complexity or the opportunity to create an effective preservation program.
Farms that are sustainable, that are compatible with other uses of land, and that contribute to broader state objectives must receive priority as we seek to use limited state resources to achieve preservation and sustainability.
Efforts at the Land Policy Institute (LPI) to identify the best methods for preserving farmland and for supporting innovative agriculture seek to enhance the viability of this important economic sector.
Farmland Preservation & Agricultural Viability
Farmland preservation efforts must go hand-in-hand with programs to support the underlying agricultural business.
LPI conducted a project to develop policy recommendations for an agricultural innovation strategy to keep Michigan agriculture viable. The Innovation Fund for Michigan Agriculture concept is presented as a framework for building upon existing capacity for innovative agriculture (such as the MSU Product Center for Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Michigan Department of Agriculture Development Division) and creating new networks with potential angel investors and venture capitalists.
This Fund would supply more than just additional funding to farmers and processors; it would provide access to other valuable resources (such as networking opportunities and consulting services) and assist entrepreneurs in navigating the Innovation Pipeline (see inset).
Figure: The Innovation Pipeline
The three main activities of the Fund would be to:
- Support existing infrastructure to enable entrepreneurs by providing information, training, and assistance.
- Provide seed funding and access to shared business support for new concepts from Discovery through Commercial Start-up, closing the gap between personal/public investment and private investment.
- Develop a network of angel investors, venture capitalists, and bankers, connecting promising businesses with private sector funding for latter stage development.
For more information, see the LPI report
Enabling Innovation in Michigan Agriculture.
High Priority Topics (Ongoing*)
LPI has given the highest priority to research and outreach on the following topics within the area of Viable Agriculture for the Future:
- Alternative funding opportunities (including green credits).*
- Critical mass and agricultural fragmentation.*
- Statewide farmland assessment tool.*
- Integrating agriculture into other economic sectors.
- Cost/benefit analysis of farmland/open space preservation.
- Taxation - systems and alternatives.
- Opportunities for agricultural tourism.
- Impact of global production change and competitiveness.
- Development strategies for new agricultural production systems and enterprises.
- Nutrient management, including CAFOs.
- Educational programs.
Viable Agriculture Initiatives
Projects funded by or spurred by the Land Policy Institute in the areas of Viable Agriculture for the Future include:
- Capacity Building for Agricultural Preservation Boards in Michigan. Scott Everett, American Farmland Trust.
- 2006 Planning for Agriculture Conference (August 2006). Michigan Farm Bureau.
- 2007 Seeds of Prosperity Conference (February 2007). Michigan Land Use Institute.
- Agricultural Sustainability: Economic Viability, Environmental Stewardship, and Social Compatibility in Michigan. Cristin Popelier, Land Policy Institute.
- Acreage and Funding Goals for Farmland Preservation in Michigan: Targeting Resiliency, Diversity, and Flexibility. Land Policy Institute.
- Alternative Funding Sources for Farmland Preservation in Michigan. Land Policy Institute.
- Equity Insurance and Equity Mortgage: Two Potential Cost-Saving Farmland
Preservation Tools for Michigan. Land Policy Institute.
Select Community Impacts
- The Land Policy Educators have provided education and information on preservation of agricultural land to several communities in Southwest and West Michigan.
- The Michigan Food Policy Council recommended to the Governor that five percent of appropriated funds for agricultural preservation should be dedicated to viability and innovation programs.
- The Land Policy Educator program in St. Joseph County helped leverage funding for the local agricultural preservation board to protect farmland.
- LPI provided technical support and information to the State Farmland Preservation Program and to several county programs in Michigan.
- Transportation options were identified in Peninsula Township in response to changing development patterns that may result from agricultural preservation.