Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version


Document Type



Report issued June 2013.


A Joint Project of American Farmland Trust and The Center for Great Plains Studies University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Copyright 2013 J. Dixon Esseks and Brian J. Schilling.


Focus of the Study

From mid-February to mid-May 2012, a research team at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln surveyed 506 owners whose agricultural land was protected from development through conservation easements that were funded in part by USDA’s Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP). This program “provides matching funds to help purchase development rights to keep productive farm and ranchland in agricultural uses. Working through existing programs, USDA partners with State, tribal, or local governments and non-governmental organizations to acquire conservation easements or other interests in land from landowners, USDA provides up to 50 percent of the fair market easement value of the conservation easement.”1

The survey had the purpose of evaluating the FRPP by asking participating owners about what they have done with their land and how satisfied were they with their experiences of protected farm and ranch land. The survey was funded through a contribution agreement between USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, the agency that administers the FRPP, and American Farmland Trust (AFT), a private non-profit organization that since its founding in 1980 has promoted protection of working agricultural land through easements and other means.2 AFT contracted with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to conduct the survey, analyze the interview data, and write this report. Though welcoming and considering very carefully comments from USDA and AFT on previous drafts of the report, the authors were free to publish this final version on a university website as they saw fit.