American Farmland Trust (AFT)'s Farmland Information Center has released its annual statistics on state-level purchases of agricultural conservation easement (PACE) programs.
A survey of 26 states found that the states acquired 7% more easements and protected 7% more acres in 2009 than in 2008, in spite of spending 30% less in 2009 than in the previous year. The lowered cost is likely due to decreases in land values.
2010-2011 projections indicate that states may be forced to accomplish more with less, as the economic downturn and state budget shortfalls have resulted in reduced farmland protection funding. "I'm pleased to see states forging ahead, but the funding reductions are frustrating," said Julia Freegood, AFT's managing director for farmland and communities. "This is a critical time to invest in farmland protection while land is relatively inexpensive because it is a strategic long-term investment in rural communities. PACE programs not only secure the agricultural land base, they support local economic activity."
As of January 2010, 25 states have active state-level PACE programs.