The following letter by Mackinac Center Executive Vice President Joseph Lehman was published by the Leelanau Enterprise on Oct. 30, 2003. Lehman was responding to coverage by that paper of a speech given by Mackinac Center President Lawrence Reed on Oct. 20 in Leelanau County.

To the Editor:

The Oct. 22 story "Farmland question splits Republicans in Leelanau" erroneously reported my institute’s position on farmland preservation as the opposite of our actual position.

Stay Engaged

Receive our weekly emails!

The story incorrectly states that the Mackinac Center for Public Policy has "taken a position against farmland preservation." The correct information is that Mackinac Center analyst Diane Katz found that Michigan’s $800 million farmland tax-credit program has failed to preserve farmland from development. There is a big difference.

Katz’s research is the first attempt by anyone inside or outside of government to gauge the success of the 21-year-old program. Katz found that nearly three-quarters of the $800 million in farmland preservation tax credits actually goes to the owners of land most distant from development pressure. There were zero enrollments in the program in five of the state’s highest-growth counties in three recent years.

Among Katz’s recommendations to better preserve farmland are legislation to authorize private land trusts to administer the state’s preservation program, and the creation of penalties for land speculators who exploit the state’s generous tax credits.

Readers may review the Mackinac Center’s research for themselves. The complete 23-page analysis is available at

Opposing a failed government program is not the same thing as opposing the goal of that program. Identifying waste, fraud, and abuse in a food stamp program, for example, does not make one "anti-food" or "pro-hunger."

Government’s actual accomplishments do not always match government’s intentions. The Mackinac Center provides independent, nonpartisan, objective research on public policy to equip citizens and officials to make the wisest choices.


Joseph G. Lehman
Executive Vice President
Mackinac Center for Public Policy