Study Highlights Positive Impacts of Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program

The Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program improves agricultural viability, encourages on-farm conservation and helps farmers gain access to land. That's according to a new study from American Farmland Trust and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service program protects farm and ranch land from development by providing matching funds to eligible entities to purchase agricultural conservation easements. According to the study - 84-percent of landowners who sold easements reinvested proceeds to improve their farms. Three-quarters of landowners reported the application of at least one conservation practice to reduce erosion, prevent water pollution, enhance wildlife habitat, prevent overgrazing or minimize water use.

AFT Managing Director of Farmland and Community Initiatives Julia Freedgood notes farmers tend to be land rich and cash poor. She says the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program provides liquid capital for farmers to improve the economic viability and environmental performance of working farms and ranches. Freedgood says it's just as important that these dollars tend to be spent locally - supporting local businesses and growing rural economies. Findings of the study also indicate the program helps partners assemble blocks of protected land - creating core agricultural areas that can support a range of agricultural activities and sustain ancillary businesses.

American Farmland Trust says the study also shows how the program helps the next generation of farmers gain access to land. Fifty-five percent of participating landowners who sold easements used the money to repay loans on agricultural land they already owned or to buy additional land. Study results also suggest the program makes farm and ranch land more affordable. Among those who purchased protected land - 65-percent reported that the price was lower than comparable unprotected land; 39-percent said the price was much lower and 26-percent answered the price was somewhat lower.

Freedgood says the USDA program delivers unparalleled value. Not only is every federal dollar matched by about two dollars in landowner donations, private funds and dollars from state, local and tribal governments - but Freedgood says the research shows the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program is extremely effective and provides public benefits beyond the purpose of the program. She says it offers a comprehensive approach to the complex and urgent issue of saving farmland and ensuring a future for the next generation of farmers and ranchers.

For the full technical report of the study - titled Impacts of the Federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program: An Assessment Based on Interviews with Participating Landowners - and a shorter summary of key findings - visit farmlandinfo dot gravityswitch dot com slash FRPPImpact (http://farmlandinfo.gravityswitch.com/FRPPImpact).

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