Model long term agricultural lease used by Equity Trust, Inc.
A sample conservation easement used by the Massachusetts Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easement program.
One common claim made to Massachusetts towns is that residential development increases the local tax base, thereby lowering property taxes. Others are that resource conservation is too expensive at the local level, and that farmland does not make a significant contribution to the tax base, so it is best converted to its "highest and best use," which is generally assumed to be development.
For nearly a decade, Connecticut and Massachusetts have been engaged in programs to purchase development rights on agricultural land as a means of preserving agricultural productivity, maintaining open space, and offering an alternative to development. The sale of development rights on an agricultural parcel in essence "locks in" the land for agricultural use in perpetuity. The owner of the land obtains capital and the satisfaction of knowing that he or she has preserved farmland for future generations; the state guarantees that land currently in agricultural use will remain so.
In the case of Kelo v. the City of New London, the Supreme Court ruled that the Connecticut city could acquire land by eminent domain to make way for a private commercial development project that implements the city’s economic development plan. Regardless of how this controversial decision is applied, the case has raised public awareness about, and legislators’ willingness to address, eminent domain. Against this backdrop, there is an opportunity for farmland protection advocates to curb condemnation that could result in, or spur, farmland conversion.
Voters approved 66 percent of state and local ballot measures that included funding for farm and ranch land protection in November’s elections. Although the number is down from 2000, it still demonstrates continued, strong support for land conservation throughout the country.
American Farmland Trust (AFT) conducted research to provide the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) with information about programs that practice mitigation of farmland loss across the country. This report contains a brief summary and evaluation of the Farmland Protection Policy Act (FPPA) and case studies that describe the approaches and results
of mitigation efforts in some state and local programs.
The purpose of this guide is to assist New England farmers with “the complex interpersonal, legal and financial considerations that can constrain or derail a farm transfer and jeopardize a farm’s future viability. The guide offers a variety of perspectives and strategies, includes worksheets to help users think through critical issues, and identifies sources of more technical information.”
Purchase of development rights (PDR) programs enjoy public as well as farmer support. PDR refers to a land use control initiative that intends to limit the use of agricultural land to farm production by making it unavailable for development. Public support for PDR is explained by the efforts of non-farm residents to preserve the rural atmosphere of the area. Farmer support, on the other hand, is dictated by market forces, such that growth in the number of farms increases farmer support of PDR.
America is losing approximately 1 million acres of farmland every year. Between 1982 and 1992, every state lost some of its prime or unique farmland to urban development. As awareness of the threat to farmland grows, state and local governments are increasingly looking at Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easement programs as a solution. PACE programs protect farmland by compensating farmers for giving up the right to develop their land.
Public amenities provided by a rural agricultural landscape, arising from open space and farm activity, are important to many citizens and policymakers. Widespread development of farmland in some parts of the country has spawned an expanding array of farmland protection programs by county, State and Federal governments, as well as by nonprofit organizations.