Establish a program to purchase agricultural conservation easements
The Department of Agriculture should establish a program to purchase of agricultural conservation easements. Many farmers want to keep their land in farming but could make more money by selling it for development. Conservation easement programs keep land in agriculture by paying farmers the difference between the farm value of their property and the market or development value. In return for the incentive, the farm owner must agree not to develop the property either for a specified period of time or in perpetuity. At least 27 states currently have such programs, which are sometimes called Purchase of Development Rights or Agricultural Preservation Restriction programs.
Conservation easements usually are administered by a state-appointed board. Governors typically name all or a portion of the members, although that authority varies by state. The board must establish funding criteria, make funding decisions and ensure that local conservation easement programs comply with state requirements. State requirements typically are set by enabling legislation that also establishes program parameters and authorizes the State, or local governments, to purchase development rights directly from landowners. Program funding can come from various sources, including bond sales, user fees, dedicated tax revenue (such as cigarette taxes or real estate transfer taxes), and federal programs (such as the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program).
In making easement purchases, agriculture boards typically consider the quality of the farmland, the risk of development, consistency with zoning and development plans, and the land's development potential. Easement purchases can get more "bang for the buck' — and may support the preservation of large, contiguous parcels of farmland — if the land to be purchased is adjacent to other protected farmland or anchors farming in a region.
- Maryland's Agricultural Land Preservation Program
IIn 1977, the Maryland General Assembly created the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation (MALPF). The Foundation, which falls under the Maryland Department of Agriculture buys agricultural preservation easements that forever restrict development on prime agricultural lands. MALPF has permanently protected more than 265,000 acres from development on close to 2,000 farms in all of Maryland's 23 counties.
— Maryland's Agricultural Land Preservation Program