Rhode Island has the highest percentage of beginning farmers in the nation, according to the federal Census of Agriculture," Kuffner notes. "But the tiny, densely populated state also has some of the most expensive farmland, second only to New Jersey in average value per acre."
The state has allocated $3 million for the Farm Acquisition Program, which is expected to start next year under the Department of Environmental Management. Voters authorized the program in a "Clean Water, Open Space and Healthy Communities" bond issue in 2014. "According to the DEM, the state has lost 80 percent of its farmland since 1940, more than anywhere else in the nation over the same period," Kuffner reports.
"The DEM has worked hard in recent years to support farming through the Local Agriculture and Seafood Act grant program, which helps small farms expand and aids in setting up training opportunities for farmers," Kuffner writes. It also buys development rights from farmers, "allowing them to retain ownership of their land while protecting it for agricultural use. Over the past three decades, 7,061 acres have been protected from development by the agency." Some other states have similar programs.