Farmland Conservation in Minnesota

Project Details by Fiscal Year
2011 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Fund Source
Environment & Natural Resources Trust Fund
Farmers Legal Action Group, Inc.
Recipient Type
Non-Profit Business/Entity
Start Date
July 2010
End Date
June 2012
Activity Type
Counties Affected
Project Overview

Farmland preservation has a critical impact on the quality of Minnesota's natural resources, water quality and quantity, biodiversity, and economic, recreational, and cultural health. Farmland preservation is also central to natural resource conservation. However, the laws that affect farmland preservation are currently a patchwork of local, county, and state laws, many of which either ignore or deter efforts on agricultural lands that benefit natural resource conservation. The Farmers' Legal Action Group is using this appropriation to assess the effectiveness of current and potential laws, regulations, and policy tools used for preserving agricultural land in order to develop a comprehensive and systematic approach for preserving agricultural lands in Minnesota.

The report that resulted from this project - "Preserving Minnesota's Agricultural Land: Proposed Policy Solutions" - recommends a new statewide approach to preserving our state's diminishing agricultural lands to ensure that our state's best farmland is preserved. The state's prime farmland - that most well suited for farming - has been developed at a steady rate, with significant negative consequences for the security and stability of our natural resources and food supply.

The report notes that existing state farmland preservation programs can be invaluable tools for the immediate and short-term preservation of farmland, but they have not successfully preserved farmland for the long-term because they suffer from poor incentives and limited promotion. State land use planning requirements could facilitate farmland preservation, but Minnesota's fail to because they do not require local governments to address farmland preservation in their comprehensive plans or zoning ordinances.

Among the report's recommendations are:

  • Adopt state farmland preservation goals and a statutory requirement for comprehensive plans and zoning ordinances to include farmland preservation plans.
  • Develop a statewide Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easement (PACE) program to be offered in counties with farmland preservation plans. Include soil and water conservation and stewardship plans in the easements. Consider building upon Dakota County's PACE program, which explicitly joins farmland protection with water quality protection.
  • Streamline the Metro and Greater Minnesota Programs into one comprehensive state program administered by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Make the program available in all counties with farmland preservation plans.
    • Tiered incentives should be used to promote conservation and long-term protection.
    • Add a permanent and a 30-year agricultural preserve option.
    • Require preservation of similar quantity and quality of farmland to acquired farmland when enrolled land is acquired though eminent domain or annexation.
  • Make all working farms, including small-acreage farms, eligible for Green Acres program benefits. Farms most affected by existing size restrictions are Community Supported Agriculture farming operations, beginning and immigrant farmers, small-scale diversified farms, direct marketers, and farms that raise grass fed livestock or that allow animals to forage. Current restrictions result in excluding farms using production methods that are better for the environment and thwarts economic development by denying benefits to burgeoning small-scale farming operations.
  • Develop policies and allocate resources to help to facilitate the transfer of land from one generation of farmers to the next and allow for affordable access to good quality farmland. Consider adopting a tax credit for those who lease land to beginning farmers; conservation measures could be made a required component of such leases.

The report has been distributed to a regional media list; federal, state, and local public officials and staff; farm organizations; and influential farmers and other citizens. The report's contents (and a link to the report online) has also been distributed to almost 3,000 contacts. Plans are underway for any follow up strategies farm organizations may pursue in the legislative sessions ahead.

Project Details
Legal Citation / Subdivision
M.L. 2010, Chp. 362, Sec. 2, Subd. 03j
Appropriation Language

$100,000 is from the trust fund to the commissioner of natural resources for an agreement with the Farmers Legal Action Group, Inc. to assess the implementation of applicable laws for preserving agricultural land and develop a comprehensive and systematic approach and policy tools to preserve agricultural lands.

2011 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Proposed Measurable Outcome(s)

Click on "Final Report" under "Project Details".

Measurable Outcome(s)

Click on "Final Report" under "Project Details".

Project Manager
First Name
Last Name
Organization Name
Farmers Legal Action Group, Inc.
Street Address
360 N Robert St, #500
St. Paul
Zip Code
(651) 223-5400
Administered By
Administered by

500 Lafayette Road
St. Paul, MN 55155

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