A View of Farmland Preservation from a Different Perspective

I had intended to approach the problem of farmland preservation from the point of view of the land planner and explore the difficulties that have been encountered in putting into practice the various kinds of farmland preservation devices that are currently being discussed. As I considered this approach, several observations seemed apparent. First, I think we have to recognize that most of the approaches that are frequently identified are not readily transferable from one jurisdiction to another since their success often depends upon factors that may be uniquely local. Without taking those unique local factors into account, it is very difficult to borrow an approach from one jurisdiction and apply it in another. To maximize the transferability of an approach, it is necessary to first understand why the particular program has developed the way it has. For example, it is insightful to observe that the Hawaiian approach to the land development problem was probably colored by the desire to keep the ancient trust estates intact. That these estates just happened to be comprised of farmland is also significant and may explain why the Hawaiian approach has not been particularly successful even in Hawaii since the bottom has dropped out of the pineapple market and it is no longer as financially feasible to be a pineapple farmer. Similar kinds of local factors can be expected to have influenced the Oregon approach which is very concerned with preserving the Willamette valley.

Although experience seems to suggest that most preservation approaches are probably not readily transferable due to the unique local factors which underlie them, we have been very slow to identify and explore those factors. Let me suggest that our discussion of different approaches could be far more meaningful if it is structured in a way that will identify the unique features of the jurisdiction in ways which may explain the success or failure of the particular approach.

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James B. Wadley, A View of Farmland Preservation from a Different Perspective, 20 Gonz. L. Rev. 683 (1985).

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