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Environmental & Resource Economics

Agricultural Land Preservation in the United States: Fundamental Approaches and Resources

Agricultural lands provide many types of value to landowners, private citizens, communities, and society at large. The general public prefers guided or managed growth to maintain multifunctional land values for future generations. Managed growth is also a part of responsible governance to protect working agricultural landscapes and ecological integrity. As of 2003, more than 1.3 million acres of agricultural land had been protected from conversion to non-agricultural uses (Farmland Information Center) using various mechanisms, including purchase of conservation easements.

What land should be preserved and for what purposes? What level of private and public resources should be made available for purchasing conservation easements? How should priorities be set to protect critical and sensitive areas with limited private and public funds to achieve best results? Both private and public institutions will have to address these questions and concerns.

Agricultural land preservation constitutes sensible resource management for sustainable agriculture. It also stands on its own as a local, state, or national policy goal to mitigate land fragmentation and haphazard development. Various tools, resources, and model programs are available to facilitate agricultural land preservation. Each individual and community has unique goals, challenges, and collective knowledge that will determine the appropriate mix of tools to guide its private and public actions in crafting effective local land-use management and policy.

Flexibility and knowledge in local conditions are the most pervasive features of successful programs to preserve lands for multiple functions meeting agricultural operations, managing land use, and achieving environmental, social, and economic vitality objectives. Scientists and educators at the land-grant universities provide research-based information, analyses, and educational programs that will help facilitate this process at the local and state levels.

Continue to What the Public Values About Agricultural Land


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