Food production, and therefore long-term food security, depends on the availability of agricultural land. Saving agricultural land as the world’s population grows from 7 billion to 9.4 billion in 2050 will help ensure that the global demand for food can be met. Well-managed agricultural land also provides food and cover for wildlife and protects watersheds. It helps control flooding, absorbs and filters wastewater, provides groundwater recharge, and has the potential to generate a source of renewable energy. Working lands support local economies through sales of farm goods, job creation, support services and businesses, and by creating secondary markets such as food processing and distribution.

The federal government helped bridge the funding gap last year, releasing $31 million more in Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) allocations than it did in 2009. The FRPP provides matching funds to entities to buy easements on agricultural land. Since its inception in 1996 through 2010, the FRPP has allocated nearly $888 million for easement acquisitions and supporting technical assistance. Of the 25 states that acquired easements through PACE, 22 (or 88 percent) have used 
FRPP funds. In addition to assisting state PACE programs, the FRPP has worked with local PACE entities and non-governmental organizations in 49 states. 

Reductions in federal funding or significant changes to the program could further stall farmland protection efforts nationwide. “We hope that Congress will think long and hard about cuts to conservation because conservation spending is vital to our national security. Conservation dollars spent here won’t be undone by future development. A working lands easement program keeps land available for production and invests in local economies,” says Dr. Katherine “Kitty” Smith, AFT Vice President of Programs and Chief Economist.

As of January 2011, 25 states have active state-level PACE programs. Montana’s state PACE authority expired in 2003. AFT’s Farmland Information Center conducts an annual survey of state and local PACE programs throughout the country. Results are available online at www.farmlandinfo.org.