Maryland’s CLAPP Program: Expanded Certification Periods and Regulatory Streamlining Aids Counties’ Effort to Preserve Farmland

Planning in Progress

by Daniel Rosen, AICP, Resource Conservation Planner, with Kristen E. Humphrey, MLA, Local Assistance and Training Planner 

Photo credit: public domain

Created in 1990, the state’s Certification of Local Agricultural Preservation Programs (CLAPP) allows certified counties to retain 75% of locally generated agricultural land transfer tax instead of the default rate of 33%.

To become certified, a county must meet a variety of regulatory requirements that demonstrate that the jurisdiction has developed a strong agricultural preservation strategy, is successfully implementing the strategy, and is periodically analyzing its approach to identify needed improvements. Currently, sixteen counties have received certification including Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Calvert, Caroline, Carroll, Cecil, Frederick, Harford, Kent, Montgomery, Prince George’s, Queen Anne’s, St. Mary’s, Talbot, Washington, and Worcester. 

The additional funds available to a county via the program must be used for land preservation within the county. Since 1991, the program has allowed certified counties to retain a total of about $53 million in extra ag land transfer tax funds, funds that would otherwise have been used for preservation statewide (i.e., instead of going just to certified counties). The Maryland Department of Planning (Planning) administers the program with support from the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation (MALPF) board of directors and its staff. 

House Bill 620 (HB 620) from the 2018 legislative session amended Maryland’s CLAPP law to authorize MALPF and Planning to extend a county’s recertification period from three to five years if its farmland preservation program has been determined to be “consistently effective in achieving preservation goals.”  

HB 620 made another major change to certification law: if a certified county changes the boundaries of its Priority Preservation Area (PPA) or the zoning within it, Planning and MALPF must review the changes, even if it occurs during the middle of a certification period. If MALPF and Planning decide that the changes are incompatible with PPA goals, they may revoke the certification or decide not to grant recertification.  

While revising the certification regulations in response to HB 620, Planning and MALPF decided, after more than 25 years’ experience implementing the regulations, to review all the certification regulations with an eye toward streamlining them to simplify reporting while maintaining strong agricultural land preservation planning requirements. Here are some of the new changes: 

  • Apparent redundancies in the regulations were removed; 
  • Outdated provisions were deleted;  
  • Requirements for preservation and development data were made specific to locally designated Priority Preservation Areas so that the state could better evaluate program implementation in the areas that the counties determined were most important to preserve; 
  • The requirements for initial certification and recertification were clarified and differentiated; 
  • Reporting on the program development strategy was simplified and clarified.  

Planning and MALPF staff have also designed a reporting template to make annual reporting easier. It will be sent to county land preservation program administrators for their review and input prior to finalization. 

Please Note: Certification law can be found in the State Finance and Procurement Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland, § 5-408. The revised CLAPP regulations can be found at COMAR 34.03.03. 

For more information, please contact Resource Conservation Planner, Dan Rosen, Resource Conservation Planner at: 

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