Efficiency, Equity and Farmland Protection: An Economic Perspective

The purpose of this paper is to consider how economics as a social science may help organize our  thinking about farmland protection policy in the U.S. Every state and many localities have enacted policies to alter the pattern of development in the interest of keeping more land in farms  see American Farmland Trust, 1997 and Daniels and Bowers, 1997). The policy instruments  range from regulating the land market, to public purchase of the landowner=s right to develop the land, to organized Αwishful thinking≅ about the future through land use planning. All of these  techniques alter the options and obligations of land buyers and sellers to achieve a land use  pattern more in line with social preferences. Many economists fret about these policy Αdistortions≅ of land markets as if there were markets without rules that determine who can  participate and for what. Other economists, the more enlightened ones, avoid all the normative  gibberish about the sanctity of markets and the illegitimacy of farmland protection as a policy issue, preferring to consider the consequences of alternative means for achieving this public purpose.

By Lawrence Libby

Publication type: 
Policy brief
Date published: 
Thursday, October 11, 2001