Thirty years after it first captured public attention, farmland preservation in North America remains a contentious issue which has failed to mature into an integrated element of rural land use planning. This paper argues that the explanation for this lies in the examination of the public discourses of the farmland preservation movement and the ideologies that underpin them. The evolution of popular and academic discourses and the influence of environmental and agrarian ideology are explored. This reveals an expanding discourse with ideological foundations riven with internal contradictions yet intersecting in different ways. The result has been a policy agenda influenced by a shift to increasingly broader motivations for farmland preservation and controlled by largely non-farm interests. Farmers, however, remain at the centre of the issue, cast in roles ranging from guarantors of food supply to guardians of nature, open space and rural community. Yet farm voices are barely detectable in the discourse of the farmland preservation movement. This illustrates the representative power of discourse and suggests why farmland preservation remains a contentious policy issue.
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