American Farmland Trust Adds Idaho Manager

Published online: Oct 14, 2021 News
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David Anderson has joined American Farmland Trust (AFT) as the organization’s Idaho program manager, a position established in collaboration with the Idaho Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to address the loss of high-priority farmland and ranchland in Idaho to development. Anderson will also help encourage regenerative farming practices on Idaho farms and support the state’s next generation of farmers.  

In May 2020, AFT released the “Farms Under Threat: The State of the States” report, revealing that between 2001 and 2016, nearly 70,000 acres of Idaho farmland—an area larger than the city of Boise—succumbed to development. Much of the land developed was in the Treasure and Magic Valleys, one of the fastest-growing areas in the nation. The region is also a global leader in seed production due to favorable growing conditions and a historically reliable supply of water. Losing this valuable land threatens America’s food supply and the world’s food security. As a mega-drought persists across the West and climate change becomes a daily reality, Idaho has a responsibility to plan carefully for its growing population.

“I am pleased to enter into an agreement with American Farmland Trust in creating a shared position,” says Curtis Elke, state conservationist for Idaho NRCS. “[David] will assist Idaho and the Treasure and Magic Valleys in providing the technical and financial assistance needed to aid in land preservation for agriculture production and education on urban conservation. As Idaho is one of the fastest-growing states in the nation, it is critical we give landowners options to choose what is best for their families, their communities, our economy and our state’s agriculture production. As a former farmer and now state conservationist for the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, I recognize the time to act is now.”    

Newly created, the Idaho program manager position will enable AFT and Idaho NRCS to act collaboratively with the urgency required to address farmland and ranchland loss in Idaho. AFT and Idaho NRCS recognize that growth is inevitable and a proactive approach to balancing it with a regional agricultural conservation strategy will protect the best of Idaho’s farms and ranches.  

“Competing pressures of a growing population and a changing climate are reshaping Idaho’s agricultural landscape, and the need for intervention is urgent,” says Addie Candib, AFT’s Pacific Northwest regional director. “One of the highest priorities for AFT’s Pacific Northwest team is slowing the loss of Idaho’s farmland, and our first step was to partner with NRCS to find the right person to help us understand the problems and craft the solutions. David Anderson is that person. With deep ties to agriculture as well as experience in conservation and land use, David brings the ideal mix of expertise and strategic, systems thinking that we will need to be successful.” 

Anderson is a fifth-generation Idahoan whose family continues to ranch in Lemhi County. He understands land stewardship on working farms and ranches, and how maintaining open space; protecting soils, water and wildlife habitat; and promoting diverse and healthy local economies will contribute to a more prosperous Idaho

Anderson brings 30 years of experience, including expertise in natural resources stewardship, conservation easement real estate transactions and the transition to regenerative agricultural practices. At The Conservation Fund, he collaborated with infrastructure developers to support conservation of private land to offset their project impacts. As president of the Idaho Center for Sustainable Agriculture, he helps farmers transition to regenerative agriculture practices and is aware of the cultural and economic challenges that growers face in deciding when and how to move away from conventional and industrial farming. Previously, Anderson delivered entitlement services to the real estate development market for 20 years, including advocating for balancing development density with quality open space as part of regional planning.  

“After a particularly tough day of putting up hay on the ranch, my grandma strongly encouraged that I pursue a college education,” Anderson says. “Doing so resulted in a journey of learning the environmental, social and economic systems that support long-term decision-making about sustainable land stewardship and community resilience. I now have this opportunity with AFT to share that knowledge with Idaho growers and support us with finding solutions that will keep us productive, provide options for our families and protect the quality of life that we enjoy here in Idaho.”