According to AFT research, from 2001-2016, 11 million acres of American farmland were converted to uses that threaten the future of agriculture. Looking ahead, AFT modelling indicates that the U.S. will lose an additional 18.4 million acres by 2040. Continued conversion of our working lands threatens the future of agriculture, rural economies, and national food security, while pushing land prices beyond the reach of established and aspiring farmers and ranchers alike.  

The federal government plays a large role in where and how development occurs, and its influence should be harnessed to steer development away from our most productive, versatile and resilient agricultural land. The federal government is also a valuable partner in protecting working  lands: USDA’s Agricultural Conservation Easement Program-Agricultural Land Easements subprogram (ACEP-ALE) compensates willing landowners who permanently protect their land from development; USDA’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) can also be used to permanently protect working lands. ACEP-ALE and RCPP offer landowners a valuable way to extract equity from their land to pay down debt, finance farm expansion, or enable retirement and a farm or ranch transfer to a next generation. Permanently protected land is often significantly more affordable for the increasing number of next generation farmers and ranchers who did not grow up on a family farm. Both programs, however, are unduly cumbersome for landowners and state and local partners and need administrative streamlining. The federal Farmland Protection Policy Act (FPPA), enacted in 1981 and unchanged since, needs a 21st century update to make it a more effective tool in reducing the footprint of federally-funded projects on productive agricultural land. 

The following recommendations were developed in partnership with the Agricultural Land Protection Partnership, which includes: American Farmland Trust, California Rangeland Trust, Colorado Cattlemens’ Agricultural Land Trust, Colorado Open Lands, Delaware Department of Agriculture, Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, Montana Land Reliance, Oregon Agricultural Trust,  Partnership of Rangeland Trusts, Pacific Forest Trust,  Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Texas Agricultural Land Trust, Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust, Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, and Vermont Land Trust. AFT and the Agricultural Land Protection Partnership urges Congress to: