Minnesota counties concerned about preserving their farmland and agricultural economies have a tool at their disposal: the Minnesota Agricultural Land Preservation Program. Counties adopting agricultural land preservation plans and certain planning and zoning controls may allow landowners to enroll qualifying land in “agricultural preserves”. Agricultural preserves are restrictive covenants that limit land use to agriculture or forestry for a minimum of eight years. In return, landowners receive property tax credits, protection for normal agricultural practices, and other benefits.
The Minnesota Agricultural Land Preservation Program was established by the Minnesota Legislature in 1984, and was patterned after the Metropolitan Agricultural Preserves Program.
Any county located outside the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area is eligible to participate in the Minnesota Agricultural Land Preservation Program. To participate, counties prepare an agricultural land preservation plan (which designates land suitable for long-term agriculture) and implementing regulations (official controls), which are then reviewed by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Elements that must be addressed by county plans and official controls are detailed in the statutes. Once the plan is adopted and approved by the MDA, persons owning land in a long-term agricultural zoning district may voluntarily place “agricultural preserve” restrictive covenants on their property (an agricultural preserve is a restrictive covenant on qualifying land limiting its use to agriculture or forestry). In return, landowners receive property tax credits, protection for normal agricultural practices, and other benefits.
The “agricultural preserve” is designed to preserve agricultural land, to help farmers feel more confident in making long-term decisions, and also to avoid some of the problems associated with uncontrolled development of farm and forest land.
Limiting nonfarm development:
Owners of land in agricultural preserves receive the following benefits:
Landowners may apply to the program once their county is enrolled in the program. The program is voluntary, and landowners typically work with the local authority to complete enrollment applications and record the documents with the county.
The completed enrollment application is recorded with the property title at the county. Once recorded, it is an “agricultural preserve” restrictive covenant that requires that the property be kept in exclusive agricultural use.
The agricultural preserve remains effective even if ownership changes (i.e., it “runs with the land”), and unless terminated by the landowner or the local authority. The termination process (removal of the agricultural preserve) takes eight years to complete. The property must remain in exclusive agricultural use, and may not be developed, until the eight year period has elapsed.
The termination process may be initiated by either a landowner or the local unit of government through filing of a form called a “notice of expiration” (see Program Forms below). Although the termination process takes eight years to complete, the tax credit ends once the notice of expiration notice is filed.
The following forms are intended for use by local governments and should be printed on 8.5” x 14” paper.