Agricultural land preservation refers to a variety of strategies used to preserve or protect higher-quality agricultural land for present and future agricultural use. These strategies have developed in response to threats on agricultural land, such as urban development, the need for food security in a sustainable production system, and the desire to protect farmland for environmental and open space purposes. There are many approaches for agricultural land preservation, including incentive programs, land-use controls, and integrated programs.
Incentive programs tend to try to encourage farmers to retain their land in agriculture through various tax incentives, agricultural districting, or the purchase or transfer of development rights. Land-use control approaches include land-use zoning, land banking, and right-to-farm legislation. Land-use zoning for agricultural land preservation limits nonagricultural development. Land banks are usually government initiatives to make agricultural land available to farmers at reasonable prices. Land trusts, set-asides, and easements refer to the donation of development rights to a governmental or nongovernmental organization, normally in perpetuity.
Right-to-farm legislations protect farmers from nuisance lawsuits and allow the farmers to practice agriculture in a normal way. Integrated approaches focus on land stewardship, multifunctionality, and smart growth. Stewardship programs try to foster and enable landowners and resource users to manage and protect land and natural resources responsibly. Multifunctionality acknowledges that a particular resource base serves more than one purpose, for example, the economic, social, and ecological values of agriculture are recognized. Smart growth is an approach to urban growth management, focused on minimizing low-density development in areas adjacent to urban centers. Agricultural land preservation strategies require complementary agricultural support initiatives to be more effective, and effectiveness needs to be monitored. A combination of strategies will enhance the effectiveness of agricultural land preservation initiatives and better contribute to the potential for sustainable agriculture.
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