Protecting Farms and Ranch Lands with Conservation agreements

As in many areas of the United States, the conservation of farmlands in Solano County is a complicated topic. Preservation of open space and agriculture must be balanced against housing and industry development pressures. Farmers face increases in labor and water prices and competition from large scale and international farming. The prime conditions for growing in Solano County, however, render the land irreplaceable. Conservation agreements assist the agricultural sector of the economy to maintain vigor and grow in production. And, the existence of large farms and tracts of open space contribute directly to quality of life. In 2007, a local newspaper survey placed “rural atmosphere,” “small town feeling,” and “open space” among the top 10 best things about Solano County.

In 2002, Solano Land Trust completed an evaluation of the state of agriculture in Solano County and developed a plan for protecting this valuable resource by using conservation agreements. Funded by the Packard Foundation, the Agricultural Conservation Easement Plan proposes to protect lands with highly productive soils and adequate agricultural water. The plan identifies several sub-areas of the county—Dixon Ridge, Winters, and Vaca, Lagoon, Suisun and Green Valleys—as having high agricultural preservation priority. Solano Land Trust’s goal is to protect between 20,000 and 40,000 acres of agricultural lands with conservation agreements over the next 20 years.

What is an Agricultural Conservation agreement?

An agricultural conservation agreement is a voluntary legal agreement between the landowner and a conservation agency, such as Solano Land Trust. The landowner sells only the development rights of the property to the agency. The land continues to be used for agricultural purposes and is still owned by the farmer or rancher. Conservation agreements can provide farmers with the working capital necessary to maintain agricultural use of the property in perpetuity. In general, agricultural conservation agreements limit subdivision, non-farm development and other uses that are inconsistent with agriculture.

Benefits of a Conservation agreement

To Landowners

  • Retain private property rights to land after selling or donating easement—keep the family farm
  • Realize equity in land
  • Can reduce property taxes and provide significant other tax benefits, such as favorable estate tax treatment

To the Public

  • Safeguards the heritage and character of Solano County
  • Contributes to the quality of life in the county
  • Protects top-grade Class I & II soils for food production
  • Preserves agriculture as an economic mainstay of the county
  • Provides fresh, local and seasonal fruits and vegetables
  • Supports local farmers and ranchers

For more information about agricultural conservation agreements contact Solano Land Trust’s Executive Director, Nicole Byrd, at (707) 432-0150 x210 or nicole@solanolandtrust.org.