Wildlife Watch, September 2016 by Marian Harman

Marian’s Wildlife Watch Blog

Farmland is disappearing in Massachusetts. In response to open hill-orchard_marian-harmanspace loss, about ten years ago, the Mass Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, developed a continually updated document titled the Smart Growth Tool Kit. The Tool Kit website states, “We are losing agricultural lands and farming opportunities at an alarming rate….over 16,000 acres of open space is developed and lost in Massachusetts each year.” To try to stem the tide of farmland loss, the Mass Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) established the Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) program in 1979. It was a first-in-the-nation model for many other states. The MDAR website states, “the primary purpose of the APR program is to preserve and protect agricultural land, including designated farmland soils, which are a finite natural resource, from being built upon for non-agricultural purposes or used for any activity detrimental to agriculture, and to maintain APR land values at a level that can be supported by the land’s agricultural uses and potential.”

The APR program works by paying farmers the difference between the full market value of their land and the agricultural value of the land. In that way, the landowner retains ownership of the land, but cannot sell the land for anything but agriculture. The program has worked well. It has protected 800 farms and 68,000 acres in Massachusetts.  read more