Protecting Farmland On The Edge: What Policies and Programs Work?

This CAE working paper summarizes four case studies looking at farmland protection in two counties in southern Wisconsin and two counties in northern Illinois. The rules, practices and attitudes regarding protection of farmland were studied as part of AFT's review of the effects of suburban sprawl on farmland conversion in the region to determine what policies and programs work. The four counties studied were Dane and Waukesha counties in Wisconsin and DeKalb and McHenry counties in Illinois. The studies represent fundamentally different state approaches to protecting farmland and the full range of development pressures on farmland, from a predominantly urban county to a rural one. The studies show that some policies help slow down development of prime farmland in urban growth areas, but that the attitude of local elected officials toward land use planning and development is the primary factor in how well farmland protection policies and programs are implemented. The authors of the case studies recommend 1) state and county policies and plans should recognize the important role that farming plays in the local economy; 2) local governments should not rely on zoning to protect farmland; 3) county and township officials should recognize that allowing low-density residential development in rural areas is the worst kind of sprawl; and 4) counties should be given more authority to implement farmland preservation plans and policies through the use of intergovernmental agreements, property tax incentives and limits on expansion of utilities into designated agricultural areas.

Jerry Paulson
DeKalb, IL: American Farmland Trust
Page Numbers: 
Publication Date: 
November 1, 1997
Literature Category: 
Reports and Studies