Maryland has a long history of commitment to farmland preservation. The cornerstone of its efforts is the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation (MALPF). MALPF was created in 1977 to “provide sources of agricultural products within the State for the citizens of the State; control the urban expansion which is consuming the agricultural land and woodland of the State; curb the spread of urban blight and deterioration; and protect agricultural land and woodland as open-space land.”
American Farmland Trust (AFT) conducted an evaluation of MALPF because—at 26 years—it is one of the oldest and most respected farmland protection programs in the country. AFT wanted to find out if MALPF has met the goals outlined by the General Assembly and to provide recommendations to help it become more effective in meeting these goals in the future.
Extensive research and analysis were conducted between 2000 and 2003, including: a review of other state farmland protection programs; regional focus groups of MALPF county program administrators; a survey of farmers and agribusiness representatives; interviews with Maryland’s Department of Agriculture, Department of Natural Resources and Department of Planning; active participation in the state MALPF Task Force; and a summary of state-level agricultural viability programs.
Overall, AFT found that MALPF has met its goals, but the economics of farming have changed. In particular:
• MALPF has been, and continues to be, essential to the future of agriculture in Maryland;
• MALPF plays an important role in balancing growth in Maryland;
• Maryland needs additional policies and programs outside the scope of MALPF to sustain the viability of the state’s agriculture.
With the current economic strain and conversion pressure faced by rural landowners, MALPF is more needed than ever. As one dairy farmer indicated, “there would not be farming in Maryland without the program. You could not afford it.” This is the time to prove the state’s support of farmland preservation, the agricultural industry and Maryland’s rural economy with a serious commitment of resources and program innovations.