Governor Terry McAuliffe today announced the recipients of fiscal year 2015 farmland preservation grants. Six localities have been awarded more than $1,581,000 from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS). Localities must use the grant monies to permanently preserve working farmland within their boundaries through local Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) programs. PDR programs compensate landowners who work with localities to permanently preserve their land by voluntarily placing a perpetual conservation easement on it.
VDACS allocated $286,983 each to the counties of Albemarle, Fauquier, James City and Stafford, as well as the City of Virginia Beach. Clarke County will receive a $146,778 grant. These allocations total more than $1,581,000, bringing the total allocation of state matching funds to $9.7 million since 2008, when PDR funds were first distributed.
Speaking about the farmland preservation grants, Governor McAuliffe said, “Today’s announcement takes another step toward my administration’s goal of permanently conserving 400,000 acres of open space and working lands across Virginia. Last year, we provided more than $1 million from this program to eight localities. With today’s announcement of new recipients, we are providing more than $1.5 million to further our conservation goal. Preserving our working farmland is a great way to help our largest private sector industry, agriculture, and work toward building the New Virginia Economy.”
“Virginia’s successful PDR program continues to play a key role in helping localities and landowners strategically preserve working farmlands, which are obviously vital to production agriculture,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore. “This voluntary public-private partnership increases Virginia’s ability to produce high quality agricultural products that are marketed here and around the world, generate tax revenue, and protect our precious natural resources. All of these are important components within the McAuliffe administration’s larger efforts to create new jobs and build a New Virginia Economy.”
Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward added, “The preservation of agriculture and forest land also supports our natural resource goals of healthy fish and wildlife populations, clean air, clean water and productive land.”
This is the eighth time that the Commonwealth has provided state matching funds for certified local PDR programs. Of the 22 local PDR programs in Virginia, 18 have received local funding over the past few years. To date, more than 8,015 acres on 59 farms in 15 localities have been permanently protected in part with $7 million of these funds. Additional easements are expected to close using the remaining funds over the next two years.
Localities interested in creating a PDR program or applying for future rounds of grant applications for PDR matching funds should contact the Office of Farmland Preservation at VDACS. They may e-mail Andrew Sorrell, the Office of Farmland Preservation Coordinator, at [email protected] or call804.786.1906.
According to a 2013 economic impact study conducted by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia, agriculture and forestry are two of Virginia’s largest private industries with a combined economic impact of $70 billion annually. Agriculture generates more than $52 billion per annum, while forestry induces more than $17 billion. The industries also provide more than 400,000 jobs in the Commonwealth. More information about the Weldon Cooper Center’s study can be found at http://www.coopercenter.org/node/2/publications/economic-impacts-agriculture-and-forestry-virginia-revised-2012.