The Agriculture Preservation Restriction (APR) Program was established by the Legislature in 1977 and is administered by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources. It is the cornerstone of Massachusetts farmland protection efforts. This voluntary program offers a non-development alternative to farmland owners of "prime" agricultural land.
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 preserves farmland for agricultural use in the future. The goals are to:
- Save the most productive agricultural land available in Massachusetts
- Provide an opportunity for farmers to purchase farmland at affordable prices
- Help farmland owners with estate planning to protect their farms from development
- Provide working capital for farm operations by accessing equity in the land value
- Support farmers, agribusiness, landowners, and urban residents by boosting the local farming economy, food supply, and rural character
- Protect scenic open space and environmentally sensitive lands
The state’s investment in the APR Program positively impacts farmers, the agricultural industry, state and local economies, consumers, and the general public in a number of ways:
- The program bolsters the state’s $550,000,000 agricultural industry by keeping farms in active commercial use, and signals to the industry that Massachusetts supports its farmers and encourages 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 helps with the retirement of farm debt and is often reinvested into the protected farm through purchase of more land, equipment, or buildings
- A major portion of APR participants spend all or most of their APR funds locally which creates a link between private and public benefit to help farmers, and stimulate local and state economies
- The APR Program is often the only way 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, inheritance taxes can be greatly reduced, which eliminates the need for second generation farmers to sell their land in order to pay high estate taxes
- APR restricted farmland offers an opportunity for beginning and experienced farmers to purchase additional affordable land. 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 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.