Agricultural Planning

Learn more about the Howard County Agricultural Land Preservation Program (ALPP), the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation (MALPF), and other agricultural planning resources.

What's New

Land preservation program

On December 13, 2023, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball 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. 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.

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

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. More than 23,100 acres are currently preserved under an ALPP or state agricultural easement.

To learn more about the ALPP, please contact Joy Levy, ALPP Administrator, at or 410-313-5407. Please direct email inquiries to Lauren Longo, Planning Specialist at

Howard County Preserved Lands Interactive Map

Use the Howard County Interactive Map to discover preserved land in Howard County! 

Click on the map or the link below to find more information about the preserved properties, including the types of easements.

Preservation Map

Agricultural Land Preservation Program (ALPP) Applications

What is ALPP? Through this voluntary program, a farmer whose land meets certain size and soil criteria can offer to sell a perpetual easement to the County, while holding fee simple title to the land and continuing to farm. The farm may be sold, but the easement, which restricts the development of the property, remains with the land and binds future owners.

How do I apply? Please read through the informational links below for the application process and procedures.

Overview Application
Application Process Procedures Soil and Water Quality Plan Status
Eligibility Criteria  

Tax Credit for Land in ALPP and MALPF

What is the tax credit? 

An agricultural land preservation tax credit shall be granted to all properties on which an easement has been permanently conveyed to the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation (MALPF) or the Howard County Agricultural Land Preservation Program (ALPP). The credit shall equal 75% of any County property tax imposed on the land, not including any improvements.

The Agriculture Credit will be noted on your Real Property Tax Bill under "Charge Description".

When and how do I apply? As a result of CB1-2023, property owners no longer need to apply annually for the tax credit. If you have previously applied for the credit, it will automatically renew every year. You do not need to apply annually for the credit.

If you are new to MALPF or ALPP, you must initially apply for the tax credit by April 1 preceding the new tax year. Please check back soon for the application form. 

Please contact Joy Levy at 410-313-5407 with any additional questions.

What if I don’t want the tax credit? If you do not want to receive the tax credit, you have the option to opt out of the credit on your tax bill. To opt out of the credit, you must notify the Howard County Department of Finance in writing at the following:

Department of Finance
Attn: Tax Credit Department
3430 Court House Drive
Ellicott City MD 21043

ALPP Resources


Commercial Solar Facilities


Howard County Agricultural Land Preservation Program Easements (County Purchased & County Dedicated) are eligible to apply for a commercial solar facility (CSF) through the Conditional Use (CU) zoning process. Please read the following document very carefully for important information regarding CSF eligibility and submission requirements:

Please contact the Division of Public Service and Zoning at 410-313-2350 for questions and instructions on how to submit a CU Petition for a CSF.


Howard County Agricultural Preservation Board (APB)


James ZollerExecutive Secretary | 410-313-2056

The Agricultural Preservation Board (APB) makes recommendations to the County Executive on the acquisition of new agricultural land preservation easement properties, reviews proposals concerning land already subject to an easement and assists ALPP staff with policy creation and refinement. For information on the current Meeting Agenda, Board Members, Schedule of Meetings, Meeting Location and Directions, Meeting Minutes, and the Rules of Procedure, please visit the  Agricultural Preservation Board page

On October 1, 2018 the Howard County Council passed CB 63-2018, which significantly amended the law that governs the Agricultural Land Preservation Program (ALPP) to expand the duties of the Agricultural Preservation Board (APB), and to broaden the provisions of the law beyond the preservation of agricultural land to include the sustainability of agriculture as a viable sector of the County's economy.

The Howard County Agriculture Sustainability and Land Preservation Act (the Act) now provides that, in addition to acquiring agricultural land preservation easements, the County intends to support farming, agricultural endeavors and its investment in easements by offering technical assistance, promoting agribusiness innovation and developing future market opportunities.

The APB now serves in an advisory capacity on agricultural issues to the County Executive, the County Council, the Department of Planning and Zoning and the Hearing Examiner. The APB can also provide outreach and education regarding the ALPP to the public, and serve as a sounding board for citizen concerns and complaints related to farming.

James Zoller, Agricultural Coordinator in the Office of Community Sustainability, is the Executive Secretary to the APB. As the County's liaison to the agricultural community, Mr. Zoller is the primary contact for general farming related issues and concerns, which he will field to the appropriate county department and assist with a resolution.


Agricultural Community Resources


The ALPP works closely with other agencies within the County to provide support to the agricultural community. Follow the links below for more information on the Agricultural Marketing Program within the Howard County Economic Development Authority (HCEDA), the Howard Soil Conservation District (SCD), the Maryland Agricultural & Resource-Based Industry Development Corporation (MARBIDCO), and the University of Maryland Extension.

HCEDA Agricultural Marketing Program | Howard Soil Conservation District  | MARBIDCO | University of Maryland Extension 


Agricultural Preservation Easement Acquisitions


During the last acquisition cycle from 2013 to 2017, the County permanently protected 17 properties by purchasing their development rights, for a total of over 1,093 acres. In addition, the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation (MALPF) purchased one 71-acre easement. As of May 2021, Howard County’s farmland preservation amounts to a grand total of 22,798 acres. 




 ALPP  61.5  Ellicott City
 ALPP 50.01  Ellicott City






Mount Airy












Ellicott City















West Friendship



Ellicott City



West Friendship



West Friendship







Agricultural Land Preservation Program (ALPP)


About the ALPP


Howard County has been in the forefront of protecting farmland for several decades using three different methods:

  1. Since 1984, the purchase of agricultural preservation easements by the Howard County Agricultural Land Preservation Program (ALPP Purchased),
  2. Since 1994, the dedication of agricultural preservation parcels to the Howard County Agricultural Land Preservation Program as provided for in the County’s Zoning Regulations (ALPP Dedicated), and
  3. Since 1980, the purchase of agricultural preservation easements in Howard County by the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation (MALPF Purchased).

Using these tools, the County has preserved almost 23,000 acres of farmland in the Rural West of Howard County over the last 40 years.

The ALPP is currently accepting applications. For the application form and other information, please refer to the tabs below for ALPP Purchased Easements and County Dedicated Easements.


ALPP Purchased Easements


Through this voluntary program, a farmer whose land meets certain size and soil criteria can offer to sell a perpetual easement to the County, while holding fee simple title to the land and continuing to farm. The farm may be sold, but the easement, which restricts the development of the property, remains with the land and binds future owners.

The ALPP is currently accepting applications. Any interested property owner whose farm meets the minimum eligibility criteria may apply. The ALPP utilizes an objective scoring system to determine the value of the farm as agricultural land. This score translates into a per acre price offer that the County is willing to pay for an easement on the property.

Overview Application Form | Soil and Water Quality Plan Form | Application Processing Procedures | Eligibility Criteria and Pricing Formula

Useful Links

Green Infrastructure Network | Green Infrastructure Interactive Map | Howard County Data Download and Viewer | Howard County Interactive Map | Maryland Land Records | Maryland State Archives Plats Search | State Department of Assessments & Taxation | Soil Capability Classes I - IV List | Soils Interactive Map | Zoning Regulations of Howard County


Regulations & Policies


The primary regulatory framework for the ALPP is Section 15.500 of the Howard County Code and Section 106.1 of the Howard County Zoning Regulations. In addition to the laws that govern the program, there are many policies that implement its goals.

Commercial Solar Facilities | Conservation PracticesForest Conservation | Howard County CodeLot Location | Nontidal Wetland Mitigation | Permitted Uses on ALPP Land |  Soil Conservation and Water Quality Plans 


Owner Procedures for Lot and Dwelling Rights


In order for property owners to exercise the lot and dwelling rights they retain upon entering the ALPP purchased easement program, there are certain procedures that must be followed and forms to be filled out.

Owner/Child Lot Process | Unrestricted Lot Process | Letter of Intent | Letter of Understanding/Owner Lot | Letter of Understanding/Child Lot | Tenant House Application 


County Dedicated Easements


As provided for in the Zoning Regulations, land may be dedicated to the ALPP as a result of:

1) The creation of cluster subdivision residue preservation parcels

2) The creation of Density Exchange Option (DEO) sending preservation parcels

The ALPP is the sole easement holder of the dedicated easements, though no county funds are used to acquire them. The creation of dedicated preservation parcels arise out of private market transactions between the farmer and a developer. Like the ALPP purchased easements, the restrictions against development remain with the land and bind all future owners.

Application Form | Soil & Water Quality Plan Form


Staff Contact


Joy Levy, Program Administrator 


Lauren Longo, Planning Specialist

Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation (MALPF)


In addition to easements purchased by the Howard County ALPP, the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation (MALPF) program also purchases agricultural easements, and has acquired almost 4,000 easement acres in Howard County. The MALPF program is administered locally, which means that any questions or requests pertaining to MALPF properties should be directed to Joy Levy.

For detailed information about the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation (MALPF), please visit the state website.


Easement Termination Information

MALPF easements established prior to 2004 allow a property owner to petition to buy back their development rights from the State after 25 years. In order to terminate an easement, it must be demonstrated that profitable farming is no longer feasible on the property.
Both MALPF and the County's governing body must approve the owner's request. While MALPF's review is focused on economic feasibility, the County's review is focused on local land use priorities, including consistency with comprehensive planning goals and impacts to vicinal properties. 

Over 22,000 acres in Howard County are protected by an agricultural easement, however; only 3,960 are MALPF easement properties and are therefore potentially eligible to terminate. The other 17,690 acres are county easements and are not eligible to terminate. The document below provides additional details regarding County policy on termination of MALPF easements.

Termination Policy  

Farmland Forever Signs

Farmland Forever signs are available to property owners in the ALPP. If you would like to show your pride in preservation, please complete and return the form to Joy Levy, ALPP Administrator at 3430 Court House Drive, Ellicott City, MD 21043. The County will construct the sign post and install the sign. There is no cost to program participants for the sign or installation.

Order Form | Sample Sign


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