Grant awarded: Andrew Stevens receives USDA-NIFA funding to analyze farmland preservation policies in supporting small and medium-sized farms

Andrew Stevens, an assistant professor of agricultural and applied economics, received USDA-NIFA funding for his project Analyzing the effectiveness and efficiency of farmland preservation policies in supporting small and medium-sized farms through the Ag Economics and Rural Communities: Small and Medium-Sized Farms program. It was among 21 projects sharing $12 million in funding.

Project summary (from CRIS website): Agricultural land in the United States is increasingly being converted to non-agricultural uses, jeopardizing the viability and competitiveness of small and medium-sized farms. When rural areas lose a critical mass of agricultural activity, individual producers suffer from land fragmentation, higher production costs, and fewer agricultural businesses to support their farm operation. Similarly, food processors and manufacturers are more likely to relocate to areas with more concentrated agricultural production. State-level farmland preservation policies–including planning, zoning, preservation agreements, and tax credits–seek to keep agricultural land in agricultural use. In this project, we will analyze the effectiveness and efficiency of Wisconsin's farmland preservation policies in (1) encouraging landowners to sign farmland preservation agreements, (2) preventing the conversion of agricultural land to other uses, and (3) supporting the local agribusiness sector. We will also analyze how these policies differentially affect farms of different sizes. Leveraging detailed geospatial data about farmland preservation plan areas, preservation zoning boundaries, agricultural enterprise areas, preservation agreements, and individual land parcels, we will analyze land use change using satellite imagery and analyze local economic conditions of the agribusiness sector using data from the Business Dynamics Research Consortium and U.S. Census. Additionally, we will assess how Wisconsin's farmland preservation tax credits affect preservation behavior, thereby estimating the public cost of future farmland preservation. By better understanding how government preservation policies affect the agricultural sector, policymakers will be better equipped to ensure the rural economy can support the sustainability and profitability of the next generation of small and medium-sized farmers.