The tools to protect farmland exist. But they are not being applied as aggressively as needed to prevent the alarming loss of this irreplaceable resource.
AFT is the national leader in protecting farmland with agricultural conservation easements.
Twenty-nine states have a farmland protection program that purchases easements. AFT had a direct hand in all of them, sometimes simply providing advice, sometimes driving the entire process, from crafting program details to helping secure funding. In a similar way, we helped create over 70 regional or local programs.
We also helped launch several dozen agricultural land trusts. We continue to provide all those entities (both government programs and private land trusts) with services and support through the National Agricultural Land Network.
AFT has also been the primary force behind federal funding for agricultural easements.
Our efforts have resulted in the permanent protection of over 6.5 million acres of agricultural land.
AFT has also created a range of strategies that significantly lessen development pressures on land.
One such strategy is “current use taxation,” which assesses property taxes on farmland and ranchland at a lower level (based on farm value, not development value) in exchange for a commitment that the land will not be developed for a period of time. Every state now has some form of current use taxation program for farmland. AFT played a role in establishing many of these programs, and in some states, we still advocate for the program’s continuation.
Another effective strategy we pursue is smart land-use planning, which encompasses strategies like compact development, agricultural zoning, and agricultural districts. AFT has been a longtime advocate for smart growth, and has over the years educated countless planning officials about farming, leading to better programs.
AFT estimates that over 300 million acres of America’s agricultural land is less vulnerable to development because of taxation and planning efforts.
Yet despite these impressive accomplishments, AFT and its partners in farmland protection have much more work to do. America continues to lose farmland at an alarming rate of 175 acres every hour, 1.5 million acres a year.
AFT in Action
Programs & Projects
We operate the Farmland Information Center that provides a web-based clearinghouse of data about protecting agricultural land, and a first-stop answer service for anyone with questions.
We lead the National Agricultural Land Network that supports private agricultural land trusts that hold easements, and state, regional, and local programs that fund farmland protection.
We protect agricultural land ourselves, acquiring and holding easements where that makes strategic sense.
We maintain the nation’s most comprehensive land-cover map and database.
We study trends in farmland loss.
We publish state policy scorecards that show what each state does to advance farmland protection.
We study how avoiding conversion of agricultural land to developed land reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
We advocate for current use taxation that provides property tax breaks for land that is farmed.
We advocate for smart growth that reduces development pressure on agricultural lands.
We champion state and local programs that purchase easements.
We champion the federal Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, or ACEP, that funds easement purchases.