Planning for Farmland Preservation

March 18, 2020 Farmland Preservation, News Brian Nowakowski
We are pausing pandemic coverage to look forward to Spring and contemplate the benefits of our farms… Too soon? But, the growing season is almost upon us which means fresh fruits and vegetables are right around the corner. Planning for the continued success of local agriculture is important because of its value to food systems, local economies, the environment, quality of life, and as we are learning, protection against supply chain disruptions. It’s also a major consideration for local communities because it permanently affects land use characteristics; therefore, planning for farmland preservation requires a great deal of strategy and consideration.
Why Preserve Farmland
Every preservation program has unique goals; however, common goals throughout include:
  • Managing suburban sprawl in rural areas, and the impacts of different development patterns.
  • Protection of high-value soils to maintain agricultural viability.
  • A desire to provide locally-grown produce.
  • Conservation of the open space and scenic vistas that farmland provides.
Not all farmland is eligible for farmland preservation. Each state has its own set of requirements; however, some considerations may include:
  • A high distribution of important soils including Prime Soils, Soils of Statewide Importance, and Unique Soil.
  • Consistency with State and Regional planning objectives such as location outside of sewer service areas and areas planned for growth.
  • Whether the land is developable. For instance, if access to upland is encumbered by wetlands there is a low chance of development. Therefore, many government programs will not consider the land for preservation.
  • Proximity to other preserved lands in order to create a larger farmland or open space landscape.
At the local level, measures should be enacted to support agriculture. In areas slated for preservation, rather than growth, zoning should be put into place that permits farm operations and agricultural activities. Permitting farmland as a principal use protects farmers through right to farm laws, which deny nuisance lawsuits against farmers who use accepted and standard farming practices and have been in prior operation even if these practices bother adjacent property owners or the general public.
The American Planning Association has developed several resources for evaluating and implementing preservation programs, learn more here.
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