Source: UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA submitted to
Sponsoring Institution
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Project Status
Funding Source
Reporting Frequency
Accession No.
Grant No.
Project No.
Proposal No.
Multistate No.
Program Code
Project Start Date
Apr 1, 2003
Project End Date
Apr 1, 2008
Grant Year
Project Director
Dorfman, J. H.
Recipient Organization
Performing Department
Non Technical Summary
U.S. farmland continues to be converted to developed land. Communities throughout Georgia and the US face development issues that are hard to address properly without understanding the economics of the issues. This project is designed to construct policy-relevant, user-friendly information on the economics of land use, growth, development, sprawl, and farmland preservation for use by citizens, advocacy groups, and political decision makers involved in land use decisions in Georgia and the U.S.
Animal Health Component
Research Effort Categories

Knowledge Area (KA)Subject of Investigation (SOI)Field of Science (FOS)Percent
Goals / Objectives
The overall goals of the project are to 1. Provide sound, policy-relevant, easy to understand, economic information on the government-related costs of development, sprawl, farmland preservation, and agricultural use tax assessments, 2. Provide estimates of the local government cost of servicing different types of land use patterns in terms of land use (residential vs. commercial vs. industrial vs. farmland) and locations (in-town vs. suburban vs. exurban), and 3. Provide economic analysis of a variety of farmland preservation tools such as purchase of development rights, transferable development rights, and conservation easements.
Project Methods
The project will perform primary data collection, utilize secondary data sources, perform empirical analyses of local government revenue and expenditure patterns, include case studies, and construct numerical examples for teaching/outreach purposes. The center of the project is likely to be conducting of cost of community service (COCS) studies for a variety of counties in Georgia. These COCS studies compare the revenue from and service expenditures on various types of land uses; typically, residential, commercial and industrial, and farmland and forestland. To this point six such studies have been performed and a report on them can be read at The studies provide vital information to county and/or municipal governments on the impact on their financial situation likely to arise from new development of different types. For example, COCS studies have established that the "bedroom community" model of development is economically unsustainable. This research also demonstrates that property tax breaks for farmland are equitable on economic grounds for local governments which still collect more in revenues than they are required to expend on services to those farmlands. The goal is to continue to perform COCS studies on carefully selected counties with different land use and demographic profiles so that other counties can find results for a Georgia county "similar" to their county. The results of these COCS studies will achieve goals numbered 1 and 2 of this project. Case studies will also be conducted on specific farmland preservation projects, specific residential developments, and other similar projects. These case studies are useful in teaching and outreach purposes and serve to enlighten public officials and citizens about the economic benefits of farmland preservation and the true costs of development. Case studies also provide a more micro level of analysis to compare with the COCS studies that are aggregated to the county level and only provide average impact information, with little to no marginal impact content. Empirical examples of hypothetical development or land use situations will be used in a manner similar to the case studies. Case studies will achieve goal number 3 of this project. Further work on the project may include the use of surveys and experimental economics to determine both the economic valuation of different land use strategies and the level of citizen support for various land use patterns and management strategies (Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development). Understanding why and how strongly citizens favor farmland and open space preservation strategies is important to valuing the social welfare benefits of such programs (Roe, et al., 2002). Examining the economic value created by following land use strategies also help estimate the public government related benefits from such programs. For example, creating a park costs money, but if the property values of surrounding homes increases, the government can recoup some of the expense through increased property taxes on the adjoining parcels.

Progress 04/01/03 to 04/01/08

OUTPUTS: Research was completed on the effectiveness of various local government policies on the preservation of tree canopy in the metro Atlanta region. Research was completed on local government funding of services and the impact of land use patterns on funding equity. PARTICIPANTS: This project led to training of approximately 1000 elected local government officials throughout Georgia on the principles of smart growth, the economics of land use, and the fiscal impact on their local government budgets of land use decisions. TARGET AUDIENCES: Target audience was planners, land use economists, those interested in farmland preservation, and local government officials. PROJECT MODIFICATIONS: Not relevant to this project.

Numerous local governments in Georgia (both counties and cities) have changed land use plans and land use decisions based on the results of this project's research. Communities have moved toward higher density residential development, have been encouraged to preserve farmland, and have increased their willingness to accept commercial development. Over 1000 local government officials have attended training classes that include the results of this project.


  • Dorfman, J. H. B. J. Barnett, J. C. Bergstrom, and B. Lavigno. Searching for Farmland Preservation Markets: Evidence from the Southeastern U.S. Land Use Policy 26 (Jan. 2009) 121-129.

Progress 01/01/07 to 12/31/07

Training was conducted for county commissioners and city council members on the economics of growth management and land uses at their annual conventions. Research was done for a county on the funding equity situation between the county and its cities. Research was performed on the economic impact on Georgia farmers of proposed state tax reform. Research was conducted on the economics, citizen support, and farmland supply for state farmland preservation programs. A presentation was made to the board of directors of the state land preservation program. Results were disseminated through training sessions, citizens meetings, meetings with farmer and landowner groups, through an electronic newsletter, and through the website

Training of county commissioners and city council members should lead to more informed decision making on land use decisions be local governments in Georgia. The state land preservation program now better understands the benefits of and support for farmland preservation as distinct from land preservation for simply environmental benefits. A major county in Georgia has empirical data on its funding equity position relative to its cities.


  • Dorfman, J. H. "Can Land Use Economists Help Planners?" Review of Agricultural Economics 29:3 (2007) 403-404.
  • Sweaney, Anne L. Jeffrey H. Dorfman, Jorge H. Atiles, Warren P. Kriesel, Thomas F. Rodgers, and Karen Tinsley. "The Economic Impact of Low-Income Housing Tax Credits in Georgia," in ed. Joseph Laquatra, Procedings of the 2007 Annual Conference of the Housing Education and Research Association. (Oct. 2007) 250-255.

Progress 01/01/06 to 12/31/06

Continued research on the economics of land use and development has led to the development of more advanced fiscal impact tools for local government land use decisions. Going beyond cost of service studies, fiscal impact models are being developed that allow a city or county to estimate the impact on its budget over time of a single proposed new development. Particular emphasis is being placed on mixed use developments due to their growing popularity and the complexity of those from a local government point of view. Training of local government officials continues on an ongoing basis through the Georgia Municipal Association and the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia. In addition, outreach is accomplished through talks to citizen groups, to planners and local government staffers, and through newspaper op-ed pieces. Resources are also continually added to a website for the UGA Land Use Studies Initiative, such as reports compiling many of the research findings of this project. Finally, we are now looking at local government policies relative to tree canopy protection to attempt to identify the most successful policies in maintaining tree canopy coverage.

In 2006 over 200 local government officials and leaders in Georgia were exposed to information and tools related to the economics of growth and land use decisions. Evidence is growing that land use decisions are being changed due to the (new) consideration of the economic impact of those decisions on the community, the tax base, and the existing residents' tax burden. Research results from this project have even been used in political campaigns for local government offices, proving the real world impact of this program.


  • Truesdell, Marie K., John C. Bergstrom, and Jeffrey H. Dorfman. Regulatory Takings and the Diminution of Value: An Empirical Analysis of Takings and Givings. Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics 38:3 (Dec. 2006) 585-595.
  • Dorfman, Jeffrey H. The Fiscal Impacts of Land Use on Local Governments. Report available through the Land Use Studies Initiative (April 2006, Univ. of Georgia). On the web at

Progress 01/01/05 to 12/31/05

Research this year focused on the financial impact of development on local governments, particularly how residential development has a negative impact on local government budgets relative to farmland. Data has been compiled from studies for seventeen (17) different counties in Georgia, Florida, and North Carolina. Findings in report form, summary tables, and powerpoint presentations are being posted to the web for dissemination to Additional effort was expended on applied policy analysis. Policies analyzed include those related to the new state land preservation law (the PI for this project was on the technical advisory committee), transportation planning and expenditure policies, public education planning, and local taxation legislation.

The state implemented a new land preservation program funded by both public and private funds, focusing on purchase of development rights as opposed to land acquisition. This is in keeping with proposals made as part of this project. The PI for this project served on the technical advisory committee for that new land preservation program and helped shape the scoring criteria used to rank land for preservation. Also, hundreds of local elected officials have been trained in the economics of growth.


  • No publications reported this period

Progress 01/01/04 to 12/31/04

Research was conducted on both farmland preservation and on the economics of growth and development. A report was published on the economics of farmland preservation and the feasibility of both public and private markets for farmland preservation. This report was influential in shaping legislation passed in 2005 by the Georgia state legislature to create a new state-run land preservation program. The main finding was the both private and public markets for farmland preservation are feasible and Georgia should try one or the other (probably the public market--which they now are preparing to do). Research on the economics of growth and development led to a publication in Southern Perspectives (read by many people involved in rural economic development). The PI also used the research to shape material for 10 speeches given on these topics, 9 newspaper interviews, and 4 training sessions led. The main finding is that residential development does not pay for itself, imposing a fiscal burden on existing residents.

This research is likely to prove the feasability of privately organized farmland preservation efforts with the ability to accomplish a significant increase in the rate of farmland protection being completed in the U.S. So far, this research has had several major impacts. An op-ed piece in the Atlanta newspaper has helped to delay conversion of a local highway to a tollroad. The report on farmland preservation has helped shape legislation to create a new state program in land conservation.


  • Lavigno, B. Dorfman, J., Barnett, B., and Bergstrom, J. 2004. Farmland Preservation in Georgia: Three Possible Roads to Success (Athens, GA: UGA Dept. Ag. & Applied Economics). Available on the web at
  • Dorfman, J. H. 2004. The Economics of Smart Growth: Dollars and Sense for Local Governments. Southern Perspectives 7:1 (Winter) p6-7.
  • Dorfman, J. H. 2004. Property Tax: Rural schools get fair share of money. Atlanta Journal-Constitution. January 12, 2004, pA11.
  • Dorfman, J. and Lavigno, B. 2004. State's farmland worth saving, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 13, 2004, page A19.

Progress 01/01/03 to 12/31/03

Progress has been made on this project with several reports completed, many talks and presentations made, and a large-scale primary data collection effort completed. Early results show that farmers are willing to accept about $5000 per acre for the development rights to their farmland. Also, citizens in Georgia display strong support for farmland preservation and are willing to contribute money (voluntarily or through taxes) to provide the funding for farmland preservation efforts.

This research is likely to prove the feasability of privately organized farmland preservation efforts with the ability to accomplish a significant increase in the rate of farmland protection being completed in the U.S.


  • Dorfman, J.H., B. Lavigno, J. C. Bergstrom, and B. J. Barnett. 2003. Is there a private market for farmland preservation? Chap. 5 in eds. N. DeDuir, A. D. Sokolow, and J. Woled, Compensating Landowners for Conserving Agricultural Land (Davis: UC Davis AIC) 63-70.