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Good news for American farmers, food consumers

America’s farmland is not only the cultural heartland, it is the bread basket of our nation.

You know the old saw: No farms, no beer. No farms, no food. No farms, no watersheds, and on and on…

So let’s ask: When our flat farmland is built on, will America import tainted, contaminated food from China? Will America become food-dependent, too, on top of importing most of our transportation fuel? What kinds of vulnerabilities come with being so dependent on others, especially on nations and people who do not share our values or ways?

So it brings me great satisfaction to see Andrew McElwaine become the new president of American Farmland Trust (http://www.farmland.org/news/pressreleases/2013/AFT-New-President-Andrew-McElwaine.asp).

AFT is America’s premier farmland preservation advocacy group. I knew Ralph Grassi, AFT’s founder, from way back in my Washington, DC days. Ralph was able to narrate his own family’s farmland preservation efforts and reasons, and he had charisma, too, so when AFT testified before Congress, or held a farmland preservation event, elected officials from both parties listened, and acted, and the public dug deep into their wallets.

Since Ralph left AFT and returned to his family ranch in Marin County, California, AFT has been on a slow, quiet identity quest that culminated with financial challenges that could be ignored no longer.

Enter Andrew McElwaine, probably America’s best non-profit turnaround guru with a conservation streak a mile wide. Andrew’s bio is easily available online, so I won’t expound upon it here, but what should be noted is that he has turned around or dramatically grown both the Pennsylvania Environmental Council and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Heading to Washington, DC, brings him back into the conservation policy world he knows and loves so well, and gives him an opportunity to work his financial magic once again.

American farmland needs an advocate. Andrew McElwaine is the man for the job. At a time of tight finances and faltering, struggling non-profit conservation groups, Andrew’s arrival at AFT is an unusual breath of welcome and needed good news. Now saddle up, pardner, ’cause the ride ahead is gonna be long and hard…

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