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Home    |   Print Edition   |   Defining the Role of Agriculture in Agricultural Conservation Easements

Defining the Role of Agriculture in Agricultural Conservation Easements

Mar 29, 2020

Jess R. Phelps

Volume 45 (2018) - Issue 3

Farmland preservation has become an important pursuit for those seeking to protect the working landscape. One of the most common approaches for securing this protection is through the targeted use of agricultural conservation easements, typically perpetual land use agreements designed to limit incompatible activities in order to preserve future agricultural viability. Since the 1990s, agricultural conservation easements have protected millions of acres of land, and many of these donations have relied on the federal tax incentives provided by section 170(h) of the Internal Revenue Code to facilitate these transactions. Perhaps surprisingly given this high rate of utilization, securing farmland for future productive use is not an express objective of the Internal Revenue Code, which requires these donations to qualify on other grounds. This Article explores the impacts of this disconnect and examines options for how farmland preservation objectives could be better integrated into the current tax- incentivized conservation easement framework.