Conservation easements are voluntary legal agreements between a landowner and a qualified non-profit land trust – such as PCC Farmland Trust – where the landowner agrees to restrict certain uses of the land while retaining the right to continue working it. In our case, we hold agricultural conservation easements with landowners, which ensure that the property is forever in agricultural use. The easement does this by permanently removing development rights and protecting the property’s agricultural values, including the soils, water rights, and open space.
Do you want to sell an easement to protect your farmland forever?
For some landowners, the opportunity to protect their property through sale of a conservation easement allows them to take advantage of a direct cash incentive. In such a case, if the Farmland Trust decides that a property is a top priority for farmland preservation, we will pursue funding to compensate the landowner for restricting their property to agricultural use in perpetuity. The value of this compensation is determined by an appraisal of the property’s “fair market value” before, and after, the sale of the conservation easement. The difference between the two values determines the easement value for compensation.
Do you have farmland you’d like to conserve and want tax to learn about the possible tax benefits?
A donated conservation easement enables landowners to permanently protect their land for agricultural use, in the same manner as a purchased conservation easement. However, in the case of a donated conservation easement, farmland owners can – subject to certain limitations – take advantage of potential income tax deductions, instead of receiving a cash payment for compensation. In order to proceed with a conservation easement donation, the property must first meet PCC Farmland Trust’s criteria (PDF) for priority farmland.
For landowners, the perpetual term of a donated conservation easement also ensures that your land will be sustainably farmed for generations to come. To ensure the longevity of this preservation, The Farmland Trust also asks donors of conservation easements to include a cash donation for perpetual stewardship obligations on the property. In most cases, both the stewardship cash contribution, and the value of the donated easement are eligible for tax benefits.
Easement Timeline & Process
The process to purchase a conservation easement requires securing and managing a mix of government grant funds, as well as a lengthy appraisal and due diligence period. Given this, the purchase of a conservation easement can take a significant amount of time: typically no less than 18 months, possibly extending up to 3 years. In addition, the sale of a conservation easement may require some outlay of cash by the landowner (including a donation to the Farmland Trust for perpetual stewardship obligations on the property).
Once Farmland Trust staff have met with you and agreed that a donation of a conservation easement on your property is feasible, the landowner is then responsible for hiring a qualified appraisal to determine the value of the conservation easement. This value amount is needed in order for the landowner to file for potential federal tax benefits. For more info on these requirements, please see Easement Requirements (PDF), or Steps to Donate an Easement (PDF).