Farmland protection and agricultural land values at the urban-rural fringe: British Columbia’s agricultural land reserve


Farmland conservation policies typically use zoning and differentiated taxes to prevent urban development of farmland, but little is known about the effectiveness of these policies. This study adds to current knowledge by examining the impact of British Columbia’s Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), established in 1973, which severely restricts subdivision and nonagricultural uses for more than 4.7 million hectares of farmland. To determine the extent to which the ALR preserves farmland by reducing or removing the development option, a multilevel hedonic pricing model is used to estimate the impact of land use, geographic, and zoning characteristics on farmland value near the capital city of Victoria on Vancouver Island. Using sales data from 1974 through 2008, the model demonstrates a changing ALR impact over time that varies considerably by improved and unimproved land types. In 2008, landowners paid 19% less for the typical improved farmland parcel within the ALR versus that outside it. This suggests that would-be developers expect permanency in the zoning law, and prefer non-ALR zoned land. However, ALR land that is unimproved has a premium of 55%, suggesting that this land is more valuable for agriculture than for development. Farmland located closer to the city or the commuting highway commands a premium if it has a residence on it, with a residence also explaining why smaller agricultural properties sell at higher prices. However, it appears that zoning by itself is insufficient to protect farmland; other policies likely need to be implemented in conjunction with zoning to protect agricultural land.

American Journal of Agricultural Economics