For half a century, agricultural district programs, meant to protect farmers from the pressures of expanding urbanization, have evolved and been deployed in various forms around the country, according to a news release from the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.


The growing gap between agriculture and those in expanding suburban areas could pose a threat to those protections, however, according to the release.


The past, present and uncertain future of agricultural districts will be the topic of a free webinar Wednesday, July 15, hosted by the National Agricultural Law Center, a unit of the U of A System Division of Agriculture.


Agricultural districts are programs created and implemented by state or local governments. The protections and benefits they offer vary from place to place.


“Agricultural district programs are perhaps the oldest tool for protecting farmland against development pressures,” said Brook Duer, staff attorney for the Penn State Center for Agricultural and Shale Law. “These programs offer a package of unique benefits geared to promote the continuation of agricultural use of that property by minimizing threats and maximizing benefits to do so.”


These programs, implemented in 16 states, work to protect agricultural resources by offering farmland owners protection from public or private nuisance claims, preferential property tax provisions and other benefits.


Since agricultural districts were enacted in the 1970s, many of those areas have shifted from rural to suburban. Duer said that shift could hold negative implications for these programs.


“In the face of suburban development, there are some areas where ag districts may not be fully understood,” he said. “They may not even be supported by the local electorate at this point.”


The July 15 webinar on agricultural districts will feature Duer discussing the various forms of agricultural district programs. Duer will outline the states which have enacted such laws and how they’ve changed, compare the various concepts employed, and consider the future of these programs as the agricultural sector enters the 2020s.


Online registration for the webinar is at https://bit.ly/2BUCIYS. There is no cost to participate. Details: National Agricultural Law Center, visit https://nationalaglawcenter.org/ or @Nataglaw on Twitter.