The Metropolitan Agricultural Preserves Program, established by the Minnesota Legislature in 1980, is a tool for protecting farmland in the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area. Local governments identify long-term agricultural lands and establish protective zoning. Landowners on long-term agricultural lands are eligible to enroll 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 statute directs the local authority, or the local government having planning and zoning authority, to implement the program and its requirements, the application process and the program restrictions. The statute indicates that the local authority identifies long-term agricultural lands, and establishes zoning for these areas at a density of no more than one dwelling unit per 40 acres. The local authority then certifies by resolution the areas eligible for enrollment, allowing landowners to apply to the program.
The program is voluntary, and landowners typically work with the local authority to prepare enrollment applications, sign and notarize them and record the documents with the county. The statute outlines a number of enrollment conditions, including a minimum property size. The program requires a minimum 40 acres needed for program enrollment, but includes exceptions that recognize smaller parcels as eligible, for example, to accommodate smaller, non-contiguous parcels that are farmed as a unit.
Owners of land in agricultural preserves receive the following benefits:
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 Notice Initiating Expiration in Program Forms below).
In limited circumstances, the agricultural preserve may be terminated early. Minn. Stat. Chapter 473H allows early termination by executive order of the Governor; following the death of an owner, owner's spouse, or other qualifying person (see Notice of Early Termination in Program Forms below); and by land annexation or acquisition by eminent domain.
The following forms are intended for use by local governments and should be printed on 8.5” x 14” paper.