Improving Public Policies for Land Access in New England
Project Date: 2015 – Present
Overview: In collaboration with American Farmland Trust and the Conservation Law Foundation, this project is exploring and advancing public policies around farmland access and farm transfer and succession. We work at multiple levels–engaging municipal, state, and federal policymakers and stakeholders.
In year one (2015) we convened agricultural service providers, beginning farmer and general farm organizations, land trusts, planners, and state and federal agency staff, conducted targeted research, developed actions plans, and supported state stakeholder implementation. Over 80 stakeholders participated in 15 dialogues in six states and four cities to build greater awareness, expand relationships, identify challenges and develop consensus around policy priorities in four areas: protection and mitigation; restoration; availability; and transition. We developed state action plans and chose six promising policy areas to research further. These six areas are: state farmland mitigation policies; state estate tax policies; using state-owned land for farming; current use valuation and tax incentives to promote land access in urban areas; and an analysis of the potential applicability of programs such as the Delaware Young Farmer Loan Program and Iowa and Nebraska beginning farmer tax credits in Connecticut.
In year two (2016) we’ve continued to lead and support multi-stakeholder efforts to advance specific public policies at the municipal, state, and federal levels. As of October, 2016, we count at least ten discrete state-level policy actions (legislative and administrative), that have been taken around the region. We’ve raised public awareness about the looming challenge of farm transfer and succession and provided policymakers with policy innovations to address it. We’re working with national coalitions, farm organizations, and USDA to address land access and farm transfer and succession issues in federal farm and conservation programs and to build support for policy reforms in the 2018 Farm Bill.
Policy Matrix: Our policy matrix is a guide to the policy priorities identified in 2015 through our stakeholder engagement process in each of the six New England states and in Cambridge, MA, Central Falls, RI, and Portland, ME. The matrix is organized by state and city, and shows progress that has been made on those priorities. It is divided into four broad policy areas: protection and mitigation; restoration; availability; and transition.
New State Policy Guide: In December 2016 we will release a new online state policy guide, which will allow policymakers and stakeholders alike to compare state policies, recent administrative or legislative changes made to those policies, and policy innovations around the region. This guide will be updated twice in 2017–once in the summer, after the end of all states’ formal legislative sessions, and again at the end of the calendar year.
Policy Investigation: New England states share many common land access challenges but have unique policy landscapes. With stakeholder input, we identified policy areas for further investigation and researched opportunities for policy shifts within those unique landscapes. We also looked at policy innovations elsewhere, and how they might be adapted to New England. Our research papers include:
- Policy Options for Strengthening Farmland Mitigation in Massachusetts and other New England States
- Investigating the Possibility of a Beginning Farmer Loan Program or Tax Incentive in Connecticut
- State-owned Land for Farming
- Analysis of State Estate Taxes in New England
- Current Use Valuation and Tax Incentives for Urban Areas
Funded by the John Merck Fund and our major donors.