Farmland Protection Organizations and Publications

Net shifts between cropland and forest land, 1982-97

Farmland protection includes a wide range of private and public sector initiatives that include both land-use and economic development. Here are a few of the key ones:

Agricultural Districts: a planning term which defines an area within a local jurisdiction where farming is the preferred economic activity. Districts may be voluntarily created by landowners who receive benefits, usually in return for not developing the land for a certain number of years, or they may be designated in a local land use plan (Wikipedia: retrieved September 28, 2017). Detailed description of an Agricultural District from American Farmland Trust.

Agricultural Zoning: refers to designations made by local jurisdictions that are intended to protect farmland and farming activities from incompatible nonfarm uses. Agricultural zoning can specify many factors, such as the uses allowed, minimum farm size, the number of nonfarm dwellings allowed, or the size of a buffer separating farm and nonfarm properties (Wikipedia: retrieved September 28, 2017). A Model Agricultural Zoning Ordinance Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

Purchase Development Rights: a landowner voluntarily sells his or her rights to develop a parcel of land to a public agency or a qualified conservation organization charged with the preservation of farm and/or forest land. The landowner retains all other ownership rights attached to the land, and a conservation easement is placed on the land and recorded on the title. The buyer (often a local unit of government) essentially purchases the right to develop the land and extinguishes that right permanently, thereby assuring that development will not occur on that particular property.  A Model Purchase of Development Rights Program in Virginia

Transfer Development Rights: a regulatory strategy that harnesses private market forces to accomplish two smart growth objectives. First, open space is permanently protected for water supply, agricultural, habitat, recreational, or other purposes via the transfer of some or all of the development that would otherwise have occurred in these sensitive places to more suitable locations. Second, other locations, such as city and town centers or vacant and underutilized properties, become more vibrant and successful as the development potential from the protected resource areas is transferred to them." (Source: SmartGrowth / Smart Energy Toolkit).  Guide to Transfer Of Development Rights (TDRs)

Other Website Resources

Farmland Information Center

The FIC is a clearinghouse for information about farmland protection and stewardship. It is a partnership between the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and American Farmland Trust (AFT).


Optional Policies and Tools for Farmland and Open Space Protection in California

Prepared by Alvin D. Sokolow, Public Policy Specialist, UC Cooperative Extension. 

Revised January, 2004

This outline is divided into three parts: (1) Overall strategies or approaches; (2) Tools specific to farmland protection; and (3) Tools applicable to urban development generally.