Friday, April 21, 2006

Should Kane County keep buying development rights to farmland?

Back to the "farmland preservation" stuff. I felt uneasy the first time I read about Kane County's policy of buying development rights to farmland. I'm sure you've felt the same way about certain things, when you start wrinkling your nose and sniffing the air like a rat, because something just doesn't smell right. Well, Kane County's farmland preservation policy never smelled right to me.

I think I'm starting to understand why. I mentioned one issue--how the policy could impede small farms--in a previous entry. Now I want to discuss another issue, a financial one.

Now, the Courier article states that the county has paid up to $5,000 an acre. $5,000 is a lot of money for farmland. According to USA Today, the average price of farmland in Illinois last year was only $2,900.

I could be wrong, but it seems to me that Kane County is paying market prices for land in rural corners of the county, but is receiving only development rights to the land, not the land itself. Who's getting a good deal here? Is it any surprise that this program is very popular among area farmers? A 200-acre farmer could collect a million dollars and give up essentially nothing, just the possibility--which may well be remote--of building houses on the land...some day.

My view is this, if Kane County is going to shell out up to $5,000 an acre--what appears to be the actual market value of the land, they had better get the land, not just development rights. Sure, farmland is nice, but so are prairie, woods and trails. The latter--incorporated into a forest preserve--are far more accessible to the public than farmland, and better for the environment.

More about this issue later...


Post a Comment

<< Home