Workshops on Land Use and Land Protection Policy

Final Report for EW99-006

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 1999: $66,195.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2001
Region: Western
State: Colorado
Principal Investigator:
Jeff Jones
American Farmland Trust
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Project Information

Abstract:

[Note to online version: The report for this project includes tables that could not be included here. The regional SARE office will mail a hard copy of the entire report at your request. Just contact Western SARE at (435) 797-2257 or wsare@ext.usu.edu.]

The goals of this project were to provide an educational opportunity on land use and agricultural land protection for Cooperative Extension, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D), land trust, local government and state forestry field staff in Idaho and Utah, and to ensure their ongoing participation in these issues. American Farmland Trust and partners trained 297 individuals in the two states at six training events.

Each workshop addressed the following topics: (1) why the loss of agricultural land is important; (2) sources for land use, demographic and economic data to help participants measure change in their communities; (3) comprehensive planning; (4) agricultural land protection tools; (5) current land use and land protection legislation; (6) local experiences in land protection; and (7) small group discussion on issues, obstacles and opportunities for land protection. Participants’ overall evaluation of the sessions was 8 on a scale of 1 to 10. Each participant received a workbook containing contact information for individuals, agencies and organizations across the state interested in land use issues, information on land protection tools and legislation, examples of citizen preference surveys, AFT fact sheets and color overheads of agricultural land loss in the nation and the state. They also received handouts from the speakers, as well as relevant publications.

To keep the workshop participants involved in these issues, we will make additional workbooks available as reference material and develop a mailing list to inform them about legislative and other activity influencing land protection in the state. The Idaho state advisory committee is also planning on conducting short presentations on land use and land protection issues at all the major annual conferences in the state to expose more people to the issues. Follow-up interviews showed that 56% of Idaho respondents and 86% of Utah respondents had been contacted in their communities about land use or agricultural land protection issues since the workshops.

The benefits of this project for workshop participants include: (1) increased knowledge about land use and land protection issues, (2) having ready materials to disseminate to farmers and ranchers who are interested in protecting their land or to others who work with agricultural producers, (3) providing training for the local government personnel who play a critical role in how land use decisions are made, and (4) establishing a new information network in each state through which workshop participants can interact with each other on these issues and help to build new partnerships to protect the land base for the agricultural industry.

Project Objectives:

1. Provide professional development for Cooperative Extension, NRCS, RC&D, land trust, local government and state forestry field staff in Idaho and Utah so they can effectively respond to issues inherent to land use pressure at the rural urban interface.

2. Provide trainees with the ability to work with constituents to develop policy options for guiding land use change in the interest of protecting farm, ranch and forested land. As a result of these training sessions, participants should be able to: (a) Estimate land use, economic and demographic changes in their counties; (b) Estimate citizen preferences and attitudes about land use patterns; (c) Understand existing or potential tools and techniques to guide development and protect farmland; (d) Understand comprehensive planning as a formal process and the plan as a strategic document; (e) Provide farmers, ranchers, other landowners and land use decision makers with current information on land protection options and strategies available in their states; and

3. Establish the basis for continuing informal involvement in land use policy discussions and participant-offered training of others as future needs arise. (a) Use the network of state and regional contacts and resources available to obtain continuing information on land use issues. (b) Use AFT’s Farmland Information Center to obtain additional information on a continuing basis.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Barbera Hoffman
  • Paula Jones
  • Andrew Seidl

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Objective:
Description:

One of the goals of this project was to ensure that the workshop information and materials reach as many agricultural professionals and farmers and ranchers as possible. Therefore, we plan to keep the workshop participants tied into a network so that they can receive up-to-date information to share with their constituents. This includes making additional workbooks available as reference material (for example, in Cooperative Extension and RC&D libraries). We also developed a mailing list of the Idaho workshop participants to inform them about legislative and other activity influencing land protection in the state. The Idaho state advisory committee is also planning on conducting short presentations on land use and land protection issues at all the major annual conferences in the state to expose more people to the issues. Follow-up interviews from Idaho showed that 19% of the respondents have already distributed materials from the workbook, 8% have already conducted a training or meeting using materials from the workshop and 15% plan on doing so in the near future. Following the Utah workshop, interviews showed that 50% of the respondents have already distributed materials from the workbook, 50% have already conducted a training or meeting using materials from the workshop and 57% plan on doing so in the near future.

Educational/Informational Materials Produced

Each workshop participant received a workbook adapted to either Idaho or Utah and containing information about land use policy and the protection of agricultural lands. This workbook includes contact information for individuals, agencies and organizations across the state interested in land use issues, information on land protection tools and legislation, examples of citizen preference surveys, AFT fact sheets. and color overheads of agricultural land loss in the nation and the state. A table of contents for each workbook is attached to this report (a copy of each workbook was sent with our December 1, 2000, annual report). As we did produce extra copies, additional workbooks may be ordered while supplies last by contacting: American Farmland Trust P.O. Box 1417 Fort Collins, CO 80522 (970) 484-8988.

Outcomes and impacts:

1. Provide professional development

American Farmland Trust (AFT), in conjunction with its advisory committee partners in Idaho and Utah, conducted six workshops, training a total of 297 participants. Workshops were held in five locations in Idaho and one in Utah (see table below).

The workshops drew participants from many different agencies and organizations including Cooperative Extension, Natural Resources Conservation Service, RC&D councils, city, county and state government and others (see table 2 below for a list of the number of workshop participants and their affiliations).

2. Provide trainees with the ability to work with constituents to develop policy options

Each workshop addressed the following topics: (1) why the loss of agricultural land is important; (2) sources for land use, demographic and economic data to help participants measure change in their communities; (3) comprehensive planning; (4) agricultural land protection tools; (5) current land use and land protection legislation; (6) local experiences in land protection; and (7) small group discussion on issues, obstacles and opportunities for land protection. With the exception of the small group discussions, these sessions were given as presentations, with a question and answer session following. The small group discussions provided participants with the opportunity to synthesize the issues addressed during the rest of the day and begin discussing and networking with other professionals.

Participants’ overall evaluation of the sessions in Idaho was 8 on a scale of 1 to 10, except the comprehensive planning session, which received a rating of 7. This session was subsequently dropped from the Provo, Utah, workshop. Utah workshop participants rated the workshop at 8 out of 10 overall. Furthermore, because people valued the small group discussion format so much during the workshops (Caldwell rating = 8, Idaho Falls rating = 9, Moscow rating = 9, Preston rating = 7, Twin Falls rating = 9, Utah rating = 8), a second discussion session will be added to future workshops to give participants even more opportunity to interact.

Each participant also received a workbook containing contact information for individuals, agencies and organizations across the state interested in land use issues, information on land protection tools and legislation and examples of citizen preference surveys, AFT fact sheets and color overheads of agricultural land loss in the nation and the state. They also received additional handouts from the speakers, as well as other relevant publications. Follow-up interviews conducted in September and October 2000 in Idaho showed that 56% of respondents had been contacted in their communities about land use or agricultural land protection issues since the workshops. Eighty-six percent of Utah respondents had been contacted about these according to our follow-up interviews conducted in May 2001. Eighty-one percent of the Idaho respondents and all of the Utah respondents had discussed these issues with other groups or individuals, including SCDs, planning groups, county commissioners, farmers’ organizations, students other farmers and conservation groups.

3. Establish the basis for continuing informal involvement

The project envisioned the participants’ continuing involvement in three ways. First, each workbook contained a resource list of individuals, agencies and organizations across the state to contact for further information on land use and land protection issues. Second, the small group discussions provided participants with the opportunity to talk about specific issues of concern in their geographic areas and discuss ways to approach and resolve them. Third, after the last workshop, follow-up meetings with the Idaho and Utah state advisory committees gave committee members the chance to map out future steps for the committee and for the participants.

In Idaho, these steps included regularly circulating a legislative update to all workshop participants, sending copies of all the small group discussion notes from the five workshops and sending extra copies of the workbook and relevant documents to each RC&D office for future reference. In Utah, the state advisory committee held a final meeting to discuss how the group could partner to address issues raised during the small group discussion session in Provo. These issues included:

• creating collaborative partnerships to investigate agricultural land loss data for Utah,

• creating partnerships that work to increase farm income,

• creating partnerships to establish funding for agricultural land protection;

• creating partnerships to develop planning grants that allow counties to plan for TDRs and other agricultural land conservation tools;

• designating a group facilitator to assist with further agricultural land conservation discussions,

• creating partnerships that will work with Utah homebuilders to design functional TDR programs, and

• having the Utah Quality Growth Commission hold further workshops and meetings.

We also sent out copies of the small group discussion notes to all the Utah workshop participants.

Follow-up interviews conducted in September and October 2000 in Idaho showed that 43% of the respondents desired some additional training; either an update on new programs and opportunities for land protection or more in-depth training on a particular subject. Many people also cited the contact list of individuals, agencies and organizations across the state as the most valuable aspect of the workbook. The Utah follow-up interviews showed that 86% would participate in additional training, particularly training that focused on different aspects of using conservation easements as land protection tools and increasing public awareness about the importance of agriculture.

Project Outcomes

Recommendations:

At the final evaluation meeting for the Idaho state advisory committee, the committee came up with several recommendations for future workshops. These included:

  • extending the workshop to two days to be able to cover more depth in each subject, and
  • adding a second roundtable discussion to encourage even more networking, interaction and discussion of the issues (these suggestions were also made by Utah workshop participants).

Furthermore, to broaden participation from Cooperative Extension personnel, the committee cited a need for greater support from the university. Also, the committee suggested asking the commissioners in each county to request that a county extension agent attend each workshop. Perhaps Western SARE could help in increasing CES personnel interest in and attendance at similar events by underlining the importance of such educational and networking opportunities to Extension and other personnel. Finally, it seems important that future workshops include funding for travel for Cooperative Extension and NRCS personnel due to agency budgetary constraints.

In Utah, the state advisory committee held a final evaluation meeting to discuss potential next steps for addressing land protection in the state. The committee confirmed that partnerships should be developed on the following issues:

  • investigating agricultural land loss data for Utah,
  • increasing farm income,
  • establishing funding for agricultural land protection;
  • developing planning grants that allow counties to plan for TDRs and other agricultural land conservation tools; and
  • working with Utah homebuilders to design functional TDR programs.

These partnerships would include: Utah Farm Bureau, Utah Quality Growth Commission, Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, Utah Association of Conservation Districts, Utah State University Extension, Utah Open Lands, State/local economic development offices, and Utah Division of Environmental Quality. AFT is pleased that the Utah workshop led to the identification and beginning of such partnerships for the state.

Also, building on comments received during the workshops, AFT feels it is important to address agricultural business issues and opportunities, in addition to discussions on land use and protection. This is based on the premise that protecting agricultural businesses also helps to protect the land base. Therefore, we would suggest developing an extended workshop format that covers land use and land protection issues, as well as agricultural business development and diversification.

Potential Contributions

This project has had four primary benefits throughout the states of Idaho and Utah. First, workshop participants are much better able to respond to requests for information on land use and land protection issues because they have been exposed to current information for their region and their state. Second, they have ready materials to disseminate to farmers and ranchers who are interested in protecting their land or to others who work with agricultural producers. Third, this project went beyond training producers and agricultural professionals to providing training for the local government personnel who play a critical role in how land use decisions are made. Fourth, there is now a new information network established in each state through which workshop participants can interact with each other on these issues and help to build new partnerships to protect the land base for the agricultural industry.

There are also more specific benefits that should be mentioned. For example, following the small group discussion at the Preston workshop, one participant began organizing a land trust to permanently protect land in his area. Following the Twin Falls workshop discussion, participants decided to investigate using a real estate transfer tax or agricultural transfer tax to generate money for a Purchase of Development Rights program and discourage development of agricultural lands (they are currently putting together a legislative proposal). After the Caldwell workshop, one individual convinced the local SWCD to submit a resolution to the state legislature requesting funding for a statewide farmland protection program. The Provo workshop resulted in a broad range of people receiving information directly from the participants, from homeowners’ associations to soil conservation districts to state government agencies.

Impacts on Agricultural Professionals

The primary impact of these workshops on agricultural professionals is their acquisition of new skills and knowledge. These professionals are better able to discuss issues and can serve as resources in their communities. For example, our follow-up interviews in Idaho showed that 56% of the respondents were contacted about land use or land protection information following the workshops, and 81% had discussed these issues since the workshops. Furthermore, workshop participants had met with a wide variety of individuals from farmers and ranchers to city and county officials to conservation organizations. Following the workshops, 44% referred to the workbook and some even distributed materials from it. In Utah, 86% of the respondents were contacted about land use or land protection information following the workshop, all of the respondents had discussed these issues since the workshop, and 64% referred to the workbook and distributed materials from it. The most frequently distributed materials were the AFT fact sheets. An official from the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food has discussed the workshop widely with groups and individuals, and particularly appreciated how the materials can be used to increase awareness about the importance of agriculture for the state of Utah.

Comments from participants included:

  • “Very informative and interesting. I enjoyed the speakers and range of knowledge/expertise they had in each area.”
  • “Good opportunity to exchange ideas.”
  • “Informative, informal, not intimidating.” 
  • “This could have been a two-day workshop with so much information.”
  • “Very good advertising to get the number and diversity of participants. Excellent combination of topics.”

Reactions from Farmers and Ranchers

Overall, farmers and ranchers rated the workshop a 9 and the workbook a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10. Comments from the evaluation administered following the workshop in Idaho included:

  • “Finally a workshop for the rest of us and for rural Idaho. Appreciate it, need more depth on all of these subjects. A month earlier would have helped more of our commission come.”
  • “Very useful and needed. Need to hold again next year. Push counties’ P&Z to attend.”
  • “One critical element was missing. What are we saving and why? The means and tools were good, but do we really want to save all ag enterprises?”

In both Idaho and Utah, agricultural producers wanted to see economic and financial aspects of agriculture addressed in another session or a subsequent workshop.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.