Understanding where our most important agricultural assets are located will help facilitate their viability and guide local and regional investment decisions. Key agricultural lands should be identified using a methodology that reflects local conditions and goals within a regional context. This assessment could include criteria related to the soil as well as the markets, facilities, and infrastructure conditions. ON TO 2050 supports GO TO 2040 recommendations that emphasized the need to expand county agricultural conservation easement and protection programs, coordinate with conservation open space preservation efforts, and permit counties to use referenda to raise revenue for agricultural preservation. A farmland protection program with corresponding funding at the state level could provide needed resources to support local and county agriculture goals, especially for key agricultural areas. Innovative strategies — such as transfer of development rights programs — offer promise to advance farmland preservation while also addressing other regional goals. Encouraging sustainable land management strategies, either through educational efforts or incentivized through innovative trading programs, could help maintain and enhance soil and water resources, see the Protect and enhance the integrity of aquatic systems recommendation.

Locally, diversification of our agricultural systems, including the production of a greater variety of products including food, could help the region’s farms adapt to changing climate conditions, and make the region more resilient to disruptions in food production systems nationally. This was strongly emphasized as an important regional goal in GO TO 2040. Diversification efforts can also help keep farms economically viable and retain lands in agricultural production, see the Diversify agricultural systems to promote resilience strategy.

Action 1

Work together to identify key agricultural lands and build consensus around those areas as regional priorities for preservation.


CMAP and partners such as the Natural Resource Conservation Service, local soil and water conservation districts, counties, the Illinois Farm Bureau, Farm Illinois, and Openlands

Action 2

Establish a comprehensive, statewide farmland protection policy, which could include an agricultural conservation easement program, and provide counties with the authority to fund farmland protection programs through local referenda.


The state

Action 3

Develop farmland preservation plans and raise funding for agricultural easements.



Action 4

Explore how innovative financing mechanisms, such as water resource trading, Illinois Clean Water Initiative programs, and transfer of development rights programs, could support agricultural protection and enhancement efforts.


CMAP and partners

Action 5

Promote agricultural practices that protect and enhance land and water resources, as well as the production of a greater diversity of crops, products, and food.


CMAP and partners such as Natural Resource Conservation Service, local soil and water conservation districts, counties, the Illinois Farm Bureau and local chapters, Farm Illinois, and Openlands