Land Use and Agricultural Land Preservation Program
Maryland has lost almost half of its farmland in the last 50 years, dropping to 2.2 million acres from 4 million acres. Maryland has two regions identified as the second-most and the ninth-most threatened farming regions by American Farmland Trust’s Farming on the Edge report. In an attempt to arrest the rapid conversion of farmland and control urban expansion, the State and county governments have established and continue to establish agricultural land preservation programs over the last 20 years ago. Many citizens and policymakers have questioned the success of these programs in preserving the most profitable farms, preserving those most threatened by conversion pressure, and preserving farms that will remain viable in the long-run. Agricultural landowners question whether they are being adequately compensated for selling their rights to develop, what the long-term consequences are to their land value, and what the tax implications are of an easement sale.
The Chesapeake Bay Agreement of 2000 set a goal of protecting 20% of natural resource lands within the watershed. Along with this important goal, recent ballot initiatives throughout the U.S. have generated more than $15 billion in funds to protect agricultural land, open space, forests and parks. Policymakers in the Chesapeake Bay states as well as other state and county leaders needed some evaluations to efficiently design new programs or improve existing ones. Because it has some of the most successful farmland preservation programs in the country, based on acreage protected, examining Maryland programs provides the ideal case to investigate these questions.