Farmland protection stalling

According to new statistics released by the Farmland Information Center of American Farmland Trust, or AFT, efforts by state governments to protect agricultural land through purchase of agricultural conservation easement, or PACE, programs stalled despite an apparent increase in total acres protected.

PACE programs compensate farmers and ranchers for permanently protecting their land with conservation easements that limit future development and keep farmland available for agriculture.

The Farmland Information Center’s survey of PACE programs found that during 2010, state programs acquired 4% more easements to reach a total of 12,415 easements nationwide. Protected acres rose 8%, to 2,185,996 acres. Colorado accounted for 59% of the year’s increase in acres.

The state more than doubled its annual acres protected, from 43,723 acres in 2009 to 95,303 acres in 2010. When Colorado is taken out of the mix, the remaining state-level programs protected 21% less land than in the prior year. The state of Missouri is not active and does not fund PACE programs at this time.

Key Points

• AFT report has been released on conservation easement activity, funding.

• State-level farmland protection program funding is in jeopardy.

• The federal government bridged funding gap in 2010; cuts are now possible.


New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation last summer allocating $90.6 million to preserve farmland in the Garden State. New Jersey’s State Agriculture Development Committee administers the farmland preservation programs, which include state-initiated farmland protection projects and grants to counties, municipalities and nonprofits.

In contrast, at least 16 active state programs either reduced spending or continued not to fund farmland protection projects in the face of tight state budgets. All states together spent $185,204,380, or 21% less than 2009, and 45% less than the amount in 2008.

Cuts in state-level farmland protection funding are particularly ill-timed, because PACE activity had started to gain momentum, encouraged by federal funding. From 2001 to 2011, there was a 32% increase in the number of active state-level programs, and a 127% spike in independent local programs. Easements acquired by state programs rose 153% from 4,898 to 12,415 while protected acres skyrocketed by 171%.

Future food security

Continued funding is needed to keep pace with development. Only three states had saved more than one acre for each acre of agricultural land converted: Delaware (1.21 acres), Maryland (1.63 acres) and Vermont (3.28 acres). PACE programs do not stop development, but ensure that there will be a supply of agricultural land in the future.

Food production, and therefore long-term food security, depends on the availability of agricultural land. Saving agricultural land as the world’s population grows from 7 billion to 9.4 billion in 2050 will help ensure that the global demand for food can be met, according to AFT.

Well-managed agricultural land also provides food and cover for wildlife and protects watersheds. It helps control flooding, absorbs and filters wastewater, provides groundwater recharge, and has the potential to generate a source of renewable energy. Working lands support local economies through sales of farm goods, job creation, support services and businesses; and by creating secondary markets such as food processing and distribution.

The federal government helped bridge the funding gap last in 2010, releasing $31 million more in Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program, or FRPP, allocations than it did in 2009. The FRPP provides matching funds to entities to buy easements on agricultural land. Since its inception, from 1996 through 2010, the FRPP has allocated nearly $888 million for easement acquisitions and supporting technical assistance. Of the 25 states that acquired easements through PACE, 22 have used FRPP funds.

Reductions in federal funding or significant changes to the program could further stall farmland protection efforts nationwide. “We hope that Congress will think long and hard about cuts to conservation because conservation spending is vital to our national security. Conservation dollars spent here won’t be undone by future development. A working lands easement program keeps land available for production and invests in local economies,” says Katherine “Kitty” Smith, AFT vice president of programs and chief economist.

FYI

AFT’s Farmland Information Center conducts an annual survey of state and local PACE programs throughout the country. Results are available online at www.farmlandinfo.org.

Source: American Farmland Trust

How the Katy Land Trust works

By JOANN PIPKIN

Organized in April 2010 by Warren County farmers Dan and Connie Burkhardt, the Katy Land Trust, or KLT, is a component of the Ozark Regional Land Trust, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.

According to KLT program coordinator Preston Lacy, the organization’s main goal is to make sure that the rural heritage of the lower Missouri River Valley, as well as the Katy Trail and Highway 94. maintains a strong rural heritage into the future.

“KLT works directly with landowners who are interested in permanently protecting their property from development in the future,” Lacy explains. “The main tool to do that is a conservation easement.”

The Burkhardts placed a conservation easement on 200 of their 220 acres in 2010. “There are several 3- to 10-acre subdivisions within a few miles of our land,” Dan Burkhardt notes.

According to Lacy, when drafting a conservation easement, the landowner’s goals are meshed with the deed restriction so both the value of the environment and the conservation assets are being met as well as the long-term goal of the landowner who wants to actively use the property for agricultural purposes.

Strictly a voluntary program, Lacy says the first step is for a landowner to identify his or her goals for the property.

“This is a deed restriction,” Lacy explains. “The conservation easement protects the property in the future, regardless of whether or not the land is passed to future generations or another landowner.”

FYI

Katy Land Trust

c/o Ozark Regional Land Trust

P.O. Box 440007

St. Louis, MO 63144

Website: www.katylandtrust.org

Katy Land Trust program voordinator: Preston Lacy

Phone: 314-920-0038

Email: pslacy@katylandtrust.org

Missouri landscape changes – 1982 to 2007

? Cropland: Decreased 10.7%, from 14.9 million acres to 13.3 million acres

? Cultivated cropland: Decreased 21.4%, from 13 million acres to 10.2 million acres

? Non-cultivated cropland: Increased 65%, from 1.8 million acres to 3.0 million acres

? Pastureland: Decreased 12.8%, from 12.5 million acres to 10.9 million acres

? Forestland: Increased 8.6 %, from 11.5 million acres to 12.5 million acres

? All rural land: Decreased 2.2%, from 39.7 million acres to 38.8 million acres

? Developed land: Increased 38%, from 2.1 million acres to 2.9 million acres

? Prime agricultural land: Trending down. Missouri converted 279,000 acres, or 1.9%, of its prime farmland to non-rural land uses, from 14.35 million acres to 14.07 million acres.

? Water area: 13%, from .766 million acres to .866 million acres

? All non-rural land: Increased 18%, from 4.8 million acres to 5.7 million acres

Source: Missouri National Resources Inventory

This article published in the January, 2012 edition of MISSOURI RURALIST.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2012.