Help for the incredible, disappearing countryside

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Protecting farmland from urban encroachment might be as simple as supporting agricultural easement programs.

That conclusion comes from a report by the American Farmland Trust, the fourth in a series of reports on the topic. A National View of Agricultural Easement Programs: Measuring Success in Protecting Farmland with Easements uses data from the first national assessment of local easement programs.

Forty-six programs – which spent $2.3 billion to protect more than 1 million acres of farmland – in 15 states were examined.

“Among all techniques for protecting farmland in urbanizing communities, easements hold the most promise, considering their perpetuity, voluntary participation by landowners, and the matching of public purposes and farmer interests,” says Alvin Sokolow, project co-director at the University of California-Davis.

Easements focused on agricultural property allow landowners to sell and/or donate development rights to land to federal or nonprofit entities, if the buyers agree to keep the land available for agriculture purposes.

For more information, visit the Web sites of the Farm Foundation,, or the American Farmland Trust,