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Using Referendum Data to Characterize Public Support for Purchasing Development Rights to Farmland

Purchase of development rights (PDR) programs are used by several state governments in the northeast to prevent the conversion of farmland to nonagricultural uses. With few exceptions, public funding for purchasing development rights to farmland continues to be approved by state legislatures and by public referenda in states that have PDR programs. The costs of these programs are significant and amount to millions of dollars that are transferred from the general public to individuals who own farmland. Despite the significant public expenditure, no studies have identified specifically what motivates the public to preserve farmland.
The identification and measurement of public preferences for public goods is a difficult task that often involves costly surveys and specialized analytical skills that may not be available in public agencies. One alternative to collecting primary data for analysis of farmland preservation issues is analyzing secondary data from public referenda used to approve PDR funding in some states. The analysis of referenda data, together with other secondary census data, offers an affordable method for identifying possible relationships among social characteristics and public support for PDR funding. While such analysis cannot replace the value of primary data, it provides a first step toward understanding specific motivations for PDR programs.

Publication Name
Land Economics
J. Kline and D. Wichelns
Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press
Page Numbers
Publication Date
February 01, 1994
Publication Type
Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easements

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