Notes from the Field


Advocating for farmland preservation as a priority


Anyone who supports the preservation of farmland in Rhode Island is encouraged to tell your legislators by sending them an email, calling them, and/or downloading our “FARMLAND IS A PRIORITY” postcard and send it to House Finance Committee Chairmen Marvin Abney and Louis DiPalma.


Our 2022 Network Survey indicated that preserving and protecting the state’s agricultural land ranked as a top priority. In response, the Council established Strategic Objectives and Legislative Priorities in alignment, and new “Farm Bill Advocacy” and “Active Farmland Access Policy” sub-work groups emerged. We have also submitted letters of support, and hosted a legislative Roundtable on “Preserving our Farms” in March.

It is a concern that no funding in the 2022 Green Bond was dedicated to farmland conservation, and it’s not noted in the Governor’s current proposed budget. If money isn’t replenished for farmland preservation this year, federal, philanthropic, and land trust matching dollars will be left on the table while dozens of farmers await that support. RIFPC (along with many others) are recommending $5M for “the protection and conservation of farmlands” to be included in RI’s FY24 budget.

The $5M allocation would also bring at least $8M into the state in matching funds, as well as ensure that our remaining precious farmland is not lost to development. Pressure from commercial and residential development is (and has always been) strong, pressure from solar developers has been added to that, and our aging cohort of farm owners is now increasingly interested in cashing out their biggest asset – land – in order to provide their families with financial security. Rhode Island has the highest farm real estate values of any state in the country, at nearly $16k per acre.

Preserving open spaces enhances the physical beauty of our communities, but it’s more important to understand the role that local farms play in re-balancing our food system: Local farms fill in the gaps. Over 90% of the food consumed in RI comes from our industrial food system, but when that system has supply disruptions (for any reasons), it’s our local farms that provide us with fresh and healthful food. Plus, they bring food production jobs and related revenues, and when they use climate-friendly farming practices, they even help the soil to store carbon! All of this is ESPECIALLY true for the growing network of our urban farms, of which we need to build recognition of, and ensure they are included in land preservation conversations.


Find lots of facts and data on agriculture and land use in RI with our Data Dashboard.


Read this recent ecoRI News piece (Funding for Farmland Preservation in Rhode Island Dries Up.) where RIFPC Board President Diane Lynch flags the lack of acknowledgement of farmland preservation in Governor McKee’s budget.