Our Policy Goals

Over the past several decades small communities and rural lands have witnessed significant changes. The economics of land use have fundamentally changed and with it so to has the way we live, work, and interact as members of a community. There is a clear need for stakeholders to develop policies which acknowledge the context of our communities in terms of culture, economics, geography, and nature. As communities continue to develop there is a need to balance the focus on growth through consumption with a latent desire to improve quality of life. 

In developing a joint vision for the future, communities must separate the indicators of community health from the drivers, focusing on the aspects which bring us together rather than enabling further haphazard development. To borrow the words of David Orr, “the market is the arena in which we say “I” and “mine” and in which we act mostly for near term advantage. Government is one in which we come together to say “we” and “ours” in order to protect and enhance our common interests immediately and over the long term.” The policies and concepts below outline a few concepts which may be implemented to further promote a joint vision in which communities are once again made whole.

The following policy and program examples promote:

  • Farmland Access
  • Rural Resettlement
  • Sustainable Economic Systems
  • Ecological Balance
  • Community and Social Capital

Conservation Easements/Land Trust
Land owners may limit development of their property through a conservation easement. An agricultural easement is a specific type of conservation easement that restricts the land's use to agriculture by selling the development rights to a parcel of land. This type of land protection combined with programs aimed at improving and maintaining the affordability of active farming ensure the land remains in agricultural use.

Student Loan Forgiveness
The costs of education continues to be an issue, with the majority of students graduating with significant amount of debt. A method by which young and aspiring farmers are reimbursed for a portion of their student loans. There are multiple formats for this type of program.

Transfer/Purchase of Development Rights
Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) programs are voluntary, incentive-based, and market-driven approach to preserve land and steer development growth away from rural and resource lands into urban areas. A development rights agreement results in a permanent deed restriction being placed on property restricting the types of activity which may take place. In return for this agreement, another more developed urban area may receive the rights to develop at higher densities. These types of programs not only protect natural resources such as drinking water, but also ensure local food production and mitigate natural disasters such as flooding.

Urban Growth Boundary
The boundary controls urban expansion onto farm and forest lands. Land inside the urban growth boundary supports urban services such as roads, water and sewer systems, parks, schools and fire and police protection that create thriving places to live, work and play. The urban growth boundary is one of the tools used to protect farms and forests from urban sprawl and to promote the efficient use of land, public facilities and services inside the boundary. More information about urban growth boundaries and their role are explained in a short youtube video found here.

Tax Credits
Based on offering tax incentives for selling or leasing land to a beginning farmer making the majority of their revenue from farming. This type of program encourages property owners to sell or lease land to aspiring farmers. Federal, state, and local governments may grant tax credits for land donation or conservation easements.

Infill Incentives
Existing codes and ordinances may pose a barrier to redevelopment. Combined with inadvertent incentives to develop greenfields, the existing investments in infrastructure may be underutilized. A clearly defined infill development program which includes reduced fees and fast track approval will allow redevelopment project sites to compete with incentivized greenfield projects. In addition to this, communities can create a certification process which certifies the environmental, zoning, and planning or  brownfield sites as ready.

Economic Development Zones
Aside from traditional economic tools, communities may opt to use unrestricted funds to promote a variety of activities. This would allow communities to provide economic incentives for local businesses which promote craftsmanship and promote the development of a local food system. Incentives for the development of these local industries may take a variety of forms including assistance with the acquisition and rehabilitation of property.

Beginning Farmer Training
A competitive program where by aspiring farmers enter a training program which prepare them to operate a functioning farm. As is evident by the success of the pilot program in Illinois, these programs are essential for training as entrepreneurial farmers in areas that include land acquisition, food safety, marketing, insurance, ect.  

Competitive Grants
This type of program may be structured to leverage public funds to attract additional private investment. Program criteria may be developed by a policy making group or non profit organization. A competitive program may direct funds to aspiring farmers who have demonstrated a degree of competency and are likely to succeed.

Local CSA Certification
Establishing a basic criteria for local CSA certification assures consumers that their purchases are from individuals who utilize sustainable and organic methods to offer  high quality produce and methods which reduce the impact of agriculture on the environment. This approach has been utilized in Madison, Wisconsin and resulted in a thriving CSA community. More information is available from the FairShare CSA Coalition.