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Farmland Preservation Program

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Applications Now Being Accepted

The St. Joseph County Farmland Preservation Program is accepting landowner applications for farmland development rights to be considered for purchase by the County. Application cycles run every year beginning in January. The current application cycle ends April 5, 2010. Interested landowners can print the Landowner Application (PDF) or pick up an application at the MSU Extension office. For consideration during the current application cycle, applications should be completed by the deadline and returned to:

St. Joseph County Agricultural Preservation Board
c/o St. Joseph County MSU Extension
612 E. Main St.
Centreville, MI 49032

Landowners interested in applying to the Program are encouraged to review the Farmland Preservation Ordinance (PDF) for additional details. At the close of the application cycle the County Agricultural Preservation Board will score and rank all applications with the adopted Selection Criteria (PDF) in order to prioritize farmland for preservation. Questions about applying to the County Farmland Preservation Program may be directed to Brad Neumann, MSU Extension Land Policy Educator, at (269) 467-5522 or

Overview of the Farmland Preservation Program

The St. Joseph County Farmland Preservation Program uses a tool for farmland preservation called Purchase of Development Rights (PDR). Under a PDR program landowners are compensated for permanently limiting non-agricultural land uses on their property. A landowner voluntarily sells his/her development rights to the land to a protecting organization (State, County, Township, Conservancy, etc.) and the development rights are extinguished. PDR programs are based on the idea that a landowner holds a bundle of rights to the land, and the right to develop the land may be separated and sold to a purchaser who is committed to permanently retiring the development rights, while the landowner retains control of all other land rights. The purchaser of a farm’s development rights gains a limited interest in the real estate as reflected by an easement, which is a deed restriction that runs with the land (not the landowner) and is recorded with the Register of Deeds. PDR programs create value for development rights, allowing the landowner to access a portion of the land equity while retaining ownership of the land.

State and Federal grant dollars are available to support the purchase of development rights in St. Joseph County. State grant funds require a local match of 25% of the value of a property’s development rights and Federal funds require that 50% of the value of the development rights be provided by a local match. The required local match can come from the property owner by accepting less than the fair market value for the development rights, or contributions from a township, the County, a land conservancy, foundation, or private business, or any combination thereof.

For additional information about the Program, view the tri-fold Educational Brochure (PDF).