Do Agricultural Land Preservation Programs Reduce Farmland Loss? Evidence from a Propensity Score Matching Estimator

Xiangping Liu and Lori Lynch


More than 80 governmental entities concerned about sprawl, open space, and farmland have implemented purchase of development rights (PDR) programs preserving 2.23 million acres at a cost of $5.47 billion. Are PDR programs effective in slowing the rate and acres of farmland loss? Employing propensity score matching methods and a 50-year, 269-county data set for six Mid-Atlantic states, we find empirical evidence that PDR programs have had a statistically significant effect on farmland loss. Having a PDR program decreases a county’s rate of farmland loss by 40% to 55% and decreases farmland acres lost by 375 to 550 acres per year. (JEL Q24, Q28)