ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Calvin Ball today announced that the Agricultural Land Preservation Program (ALPP) has updated its financing terms to incentivize even more farmers to preserve their land as “Farmland Forever.” The program provides payments from the County’s Agricultural Preservation Fund to property owners to prevent the loss of farmland. Rhonda and Jeff Winkler, long-time Howard County farmers, recently purchased a 58.5-acre crop farm on St. Michael’s Road in Woodbine to expand their local operations. This will be the first property to enter the ALPP under the updated terms. This installment purchase agreement will be pre-filed in December for Council consideration in January.
I knew that it was important for us to reopen the ALPP to new easement purchases after its abrupt closure in 2018, under the previous administration. Since reopening, we have preserved more than 305 acres on seven properties. With these new terms, we will continue to support agriculture and grow our commitment to protecting more farmland. Our farms provide locally grown food, minimize our environmental footprint, and grow jobs. This effort builds on our promise of support to our farmers and residents. I am confident that these new terms will make our program more competitive and attractive to farmers who want to preserve their land for future generations; and I am thrilled to welcome the Winkler property into the program.
The ALPP offers property owners the opportunity to sell their development rights to the County in exchange for an agricultural preservation easement that protects the land in perpetuity. Acquisitions are secured by installment purchase agreements (IPAs) that disburse semi-annual, tax-exempt interest and annual principal payments over the contract term.
The ALPP was created in 1984 and over four decades has preserved 15,700 acres of land for agriculture in the rural areas of the county. The program was shut down in 2018. Ball, after becoming County Executive, reopened the program shortly after taking office and the County has since acquired easements on seven properties totaling 305 acres in the time since.
In Howard County, more than 23,100 acres are currently preserved under a state or local agricultural easement. ALPP acquisitions in recent years had proceeded under one set of standard terms: 20 years, 5% down payment and 1.00% interest. The Agricultural Preservation Board, this year, requested the County explore alternatives to this structure to offer larger down payments and higher interest rates in order to attract more farmers to the program.
In anticipation of the ALPP’s upcoming 40th anniversary next year and in support of recent recommendations made by the Agricultural Preservation Board, the ALPP will now offer three different IPA payment options so that farmers can request the terms that best meet their financial and operational goals:
- A 15-year term with 10% down and a 2.50% interest rate
- A 20-year term with 10% down and a 3.00% interest rate
- A 20-year term with 15% down and a 1.00% interest rate
Howard County boasts a rich agricultural history and for four decades we have been leaders in farmland preservation. This update to our financing terms will provide much-needed support to farmers while ensuring a financially sustainable future for the Agricultural Preservation Fund.
“The ALPP supports our agricultural community by providing significant up-front and predictable annual payments that help keep our farmers farming,” said James Zoller, Agricultural Coordinator and Executive Secretary for the Howard County Agricultural Preservation Board.
To be eligible for the ALPP, properties must be 20 acres or larger, meet certain soils criteria and have capacity for future development. The County pays up to $40,000 per acre to purchase agricultural easements under the ALPP. Fueled by transfer tax revenues, the Agricultural Preservation Fund underwrites the cost of the ALPP and other related programs that enhance and sustain local farming.
To learn more about the ALPP, https://www.howardcountymd.gov/planning-zoning/agricultural-planning.