Decades-old program helps preserve metro area ag land

Date: Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Farming is important business in the Twin Cities metro area, and the Metropolitan Agricultural Preserves Program is helping to keep it that way.

Corn in the foreground, field and trees in the background.Established nearly 40 years ago by the Minnesota Legislature, the voluntary program supports local food production and farming as a long-term land use. The program helps protect agricultural land from market pressures to convert the land to residential, commercial, and industrial development.

Farmland enrolled in the Metropolitan Agricultural Preserves Program has remained well above 200,000 acres for the past seven years, according to a recent Metropolitan Council report. The Council reports annually on the acreage in the program from enrollment information provided by counties and the Minnesota Department of Revenue.

Property is taxed on agricultural value, not potential development value

Under the program, landowners can enroll their land in a property tax classification that accounts only for its agricultural use, not potential development value. As a result, the program helps assure farmers they can make long-term agricultural investments and continue producing crops on their land.

The program also prohibits local governments from imposing special assessments to pay for public improvement projects, such as sanitary sewer systems and roads, or adopting ordinances that restrict normal farm practices. By the same token, eligible properties must total at least 40 acres and engage in agricultural production involving crops, livestock, dairy animals, poultry, fruit, or garden products.

The Metropolitan Council supports preserving agricultural land in the region through policies on land protection and growth in its regional development guide, Thrive MSP 2040.

Six of the metro area's seven counties participate in the program; Ramsey County is fully urbanized. As of 2018, landowners enrolled more than 206,000 acres, with Carver, Dakota, and Hennepin counties accounting for more than 90% of the total.

Read the 2018 Metropolitan Agricultural Preserves Program Report (PDF)

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