The Agriculture Preservation Restriction (APR) Program, established by the Legislature in 1977 and administered by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, is the cornerstone of the State’s farmland Protection efforts. This voluntary program which is intended to offer a non-development alternative to farmland owners of "prime" and "state important" agricultural land who are faced with a decision regarding future use and disposition of their farms. Towards this end, the program offers to pay farmland owners the difference between the "fair market value" and the "agricultural value" of their farms in exchange for a permanent deed restriction which precludes any use of the property that will have a negative impact on its agricultural viability. The main objective of the APR program is to protect productive farmland through the purchase of deed restrictions and revitalize the agricultural industry by making land more affordable to farmers and their operations more financially secure. Specifically the program seeks to:
- Save the best and most productive agricultural land remaining in the Commonwealth;
- Provide an opportunity for farmers to purchase farmland at affordable prices;
- Help farmland owners overcome estate planning and other personal issues such as age, health and retirement;
- Provide working capital for farm operations by releasing equity “locked-up” in land values;
- To develop a positive attitude among farmers, agribusiness, landowners, and urban residents that agriculture in Massachusetts makes and important contribution to the states economy, food supply, and rural character.
- When other program objectives are met, to protect scenic open space and environmentally sensitive lands.
The state’s investment in the APR Program benefits farmers, the state’s agricultural industry, the state and local economies, consumers and the general populace in a number of important ways.
- The program works to bolster the state’s $550,000,000 agricultural industry by helping to keep farms in active commercial use, and by sending an important signal to the industry and its farmers that Massachusetts is serious about encouraging a strong and viable agricultural economy.
- Farmers whose land is accepted into the program are able to realize equity from their land without being forced to sell their farms for development purposes. The equity is often reinvested back into the protected farm by way of the purchase of more land, equipment or buildings and through the retirement of farm debt.
- A major portion of APR participants spend all or most of their APR funds locally, thereby creating a link between private and public benefit, and adding credence to the assertion that APR monies benefit more than just individual farmers and, in reality, work to stimulate local and state economies.
- The APR Program often represents the only means by which farmers are able to plan their estates to allow for the transfer of ownership of their farms to their children. By reducing the value of restricted farmland to its agricultural value, gift or inheritance taxes can be greatly reduced, thereby eliminating the need for second generation farmers to sell their farmland in order to pay taxes.
- APR restricted farmland represents an opportunity for young farmers just entering the business and other farmers in need of additional land to purchase affordable farmland. The program serves to stabilize farmland values and guarantee the long-term availability of farmland. This factor is especially important in areas with escalating land values and is critical for farmers who rent a large percentage of the land that they farm.
- By protecting farmland, the APR Program works to secure a continued high quality of life for Massachusetts residents. Farmland not only contributes to the scenic beauty of the state, but it provides for clean air and water, wildlife habitat, and recreational opportunities.