State grants help Michigan counties preserve agricultural land—and protect farmers’ jobs

State grants help Michigan counties preserve agricultural land—and protect farmers’ jobs

By Kyle Kaminski

April 4, 2024

About $2 million in state grant funding awarded last month is set to help local counties and townships preserve more than 670 acres of farmland (and hundreds of jobs) in Michigan.

MICHIGAN—Millions of dollars in state grant funding awarded last month will be used to purchase the development rights of farmland in eight communities across Michigan, ultimately ensuring that hundreds of acres of land will be preserved exclusively for agricultural use. 

State officials said $2 million in grant funding awarded this month through the Michigan Agricultural Preservation Fund Board is designed to ensure more Michiganders have access to locally sustainable sources of fresh food, as well as ensure local farmers can keep their jobs.

“Farmland preservation is not just about protecting local lands. It’s about protecting and nurturing our roots while creating a system that ensures sustenance for generations to come,” said Tim Boring, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

The state fund—which was established through legislation in 2000—distributes grants covering up to 75% of the costs for counties and townships to buy the development rights on agricultural land, and then set up permanent agricultural conservation easements to preserve farmland.

The state program is designed to ensure the land remains in agricultural use for a minimum of 10 years, effectively blocking any development for non-agricultural purposes. In return, the landowners may be entitled to state tax credits and exemptions from local tax assessments.

All told, the grant funding awarded last month is set to preserve 670 acres of farmland:

  • Peninsula Township on Traverse City’s Old Mission Peninsula received the most funding, with a grant of $675,000. 
  • Washtenaw and Ottawa counties received $238,000 and $206,000, respectively. 
  • Ann Arbor, Dexter, and Scio townships each received $200,000. 
  • Webster Township received a $160,000 grant.
  • Kent County received a grant for $121,000.

“Michiganders continue to express they care about how and where their food is grown and preserving farmlands across our state allows for fresh food to be grown, processed and sold within local communities,” Boring said in a statement announcing the grants last month.

In Washington:

This week, President Joe Biden’s administration also announced a $1.5 billion federal investment designed to help farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners adopt and expand conservation strategies to enhance natural resources while tackling the climate crisis.

The funding was made available through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program as part of Biden’s Investing in America agenda—including the Inflation Reduction Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, federal officials said in a press release on Wednesday.

READ MORE: Farmers call for federal ‘safety net’ after sludge sinks Michigan cattle farm

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  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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