Rhode Island’s rural and urban fringe communities are undergoing rapid change and face increasingly complex planning and development issues. The impact of residential and commercial development on rural areas has increased costs of municipal services and driven property tax rates higher. Poorly planned growth is also creating sprawl pattern development in rural areas. This trend has resulted in the loss of farm and open space and has placed increased pressure on soil and water resources. Loss of rural character and diminishing quality of place are concerns voiced by rural residents and municipal leaders with increasing frequency and urgency. Loss of farmland is particularly troubling. Between 1964 and 1997 USDA estimates that Rhode Island lost approximately half of its farmland. Loss of farms and rural lands often heralds new residential development, traffic, and associated neg ative impacts of human activity on the environment. High land values can also stifle expansion of existing farms and make purchasing farmland prohibitive for aspiring farmers. In its current Plan of Work, Rhode Island’s state Division to Division of Agriculture states, “…urban sprawl, and related pressures and problems, continue to threaten the long-term existence of agriculture in Rhode Island. Prime agricultural land continues to be lost to development; farmland values in Rhode Island are the highest in the nation and consequently farmland real estate taxes are higher than in any other state”. These and other pressures cited in the plan, such as, zoning and regulatory issues, conflicts between farmers and homeowners, water supply, and estate settlement, have prompted the RI Division of Agriculture to designate “sustaining and providing for viable agriculture” as its foremost priority.
Goals of this Program
Our long term goal to strengthen the capacity of state and local organizations, municipalities, citizens and farmers/agriculturalists to make informed decisions and plan economically and environmentally sustainable communities and farms, and to manage natural resources and community assets wisely. This program will focus on commercial farm viability, stewardship of agricultural lands and sustainable development and management of tourism venues.
- Study and promote commercial farm viability
- Promote responsible stewardship of agricultural lands
- Work with municipalities and community members to manage natural and economic resources wisely
- Teach and promote sustainable development techniques and management to communities
- Promote, enhance and expand sustainable tourism in the state of Rhode Island