By Elisha Greeley Smith, email@example.com, Center for Rural Affairs
Not all farming and ranching communities have the traditional amenities that some touristy communities have such as beaches or mountains, but virtually all of our rural communities have space and often lots of it. Un-crowded natural land is hard to come by and is going to become a more valuable asset for rural communities in years to come.
What if our land retirement based conservation programs provided bonus payments for enrollments that allowed public access as part of a community development plan? It could provide for the basis for tourism-based small businesses such as bed and breakfasts and other agri-tourism and eco-tourism enterprises.
In the 2002 Farm Bill a program call the Conservation Partnership and Cooperation Program was created to serve these purposes, but its statutory language was vague and never implemented by the USDA.
The Center for Rural Affairs proposes that the 2007 farm bill reauthorize that program as the Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI) – allowing bonus payments up to 50 percent for enrollment in conservation programs. Enrollment would be conditioned upon certification of the land as consistent with a plan to develop natural space and habitat as a community development asset, the land is restored to native plant species and habitat for native animal species and the land owner provides public access to the enrolled land.
The 2007 Farm Bill should strive to make better use of conservation programs to make rural communities more attractive places to live and visit.
Agree? Disagree? Post a comment here or contact John Crabtree, firstname.lastname@example.org
Center for Rural Affairs
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