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Environment & Climate Change

Farm bill likely to help preserve N. Michigan farms

Farm in rural Michigan
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The new farm bill should help farmland preservation efforts in northern Michigan.

The way farmland preservation works is farmers sell the right to develop their land, so it can never be divided up for houses or strip malls. The federal government spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year to protect farmland, and that will continue under the new farm bill.

But the federal dollars need to be matched locally, which can be a challenge in a region where land is so valuable.

Under the new legislation, a farmer could donate some of the value of the land to make that local match, essentially lowering the amount needed to protect a farm.

Glen Chown directs the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy in Traverse City. He says this waiver could be a huge boost to their efforts.

"Farmland is a key economic driver for our region; it's a growing part of Michigan's economy, certainly our regional economy up here," he says.

Congress has been working on the farm bill for more than a year.

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