Is America’s Farm Land Disappearing?

The American Farmland Trust is a farm advocacy organization founded in the 1980s and dedicated to preserving farmland and encouraging environmentally sustainable farm practices. According to recent estimates by the American Farmland Trust, the United States lost more than 23 million acres of agricultural land (an area roughly the size of the state of Indiana) between 1982 and 2007. These losses were attributable to a number of factors:

  • poor weather, bad harvests, and difficult financial situations forced many farmers to leave the farming profession;
  • the rising value of real estate convinced many farmers to sell their land and pocket significant profits; and
  • long time farmers left the profession from old age and retirement.

While the United States has historically enjoyed high agricultural productivity and still generates significant revenue both internationally and domestically through agricultural sales, many farmers and farm organizations are worried about the recent development trends.[1]

In response to these land losses, many states have passed laws attempting to incentivize farmers to preserve their acreage. In 1988, for example, the state of Pennsylvania created the Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Program, designed to purchase large tracts of land from farmers in order to protect them as agricultural plots. The program essentially purchases easements on farmland, allowing farmers to retain control and ownership, but preventing them from selling it for non-agricultural purposes and mandating that all economic activity on the land be agricultural in nature. The program, one of the most successful in the country, has already helped preserve more than 160 farms within the last year (at a cost of $52 million). Other states have created similar programs and the federal government’s Farm and Ranch Land Protection Programs aims to supplement and match state funds in order to maintain the health of the farm sector.[2]

If you are interested in purchasing farm land, contact Farm Plus Financial at 866.929.5585 to discuss loan options and to get a pre-approval before you start your hunt for the perfect property.

References

[1] American Farmland Trust, “The National Resources Inventory,” Farmland by the Numbers.
[2] Charlee Song, “Pennsylvania’s Farmland Preservation Program Leads Nation,” 90.5 WESA; USDA, “Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program.”

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