State announces $100K in farmland preservation grants
Gov. Bob McDonnell today announced the distribution of $100,000 in grants from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to eight Virginia localities. Localities must use the grant monies to preserve farmland within their boundaries through local purchase of development rights programs. PDR programs compensate landowners who permanently preserve their land by voluntarily placing a perpetual conservation easement on it.
“Even in these difficult economic times I am committed to setting aside funds for preserving farmlands, lands that are producing goods, providing jobs, and generating tax revenue for localities,” McDonnell said. “One of my top environmental priorities is to permanently preserve 400,000 acres of land during my administration. The budget proposal I submitted to the General Assembly in December includes an amendment to provide $400,000 more for PDR programs in the next fiscal year for a total of $500,000 in grant funding.”
Twenty-two local PDR programs exist in Virginia, fifteen of which have some level of local funding currently available. This is the fourth time that the Commonwealth of Virginia has provided state matching funds for certified local PDR programs. A total of $5.25 million has been allocated since February 2008. To date, 4,047 acres on 27 farms in 11 localities have been permanently protected in part with these funds. Another 511 acres on six farms have been approved and are currently awaiting closing. Additional easements are expected to close using these funds over the next two years.
For the FY 2011 allocation round, each of the following eight localities received $12,500: The counties of Albemarle, Clarke, Fauquier, Isle of Wight, New Kent, Northampton, and Spotsylvania plus the City of Virginia Beach. Grant applicants had to report how much funding was available for their local PDR programs as of October 22, 2010, and the state funds matched that amount up to $12,500 per locality. Currently, these eight localities report more than $17 million available in local matching funds ($3,524,331 for FY 2011, and $13,803,474 from previous years) available for their PDR programs, but state matching funds for FY 2011 are limited to $100,000.
“Local governments are a key component in preserving working farmland,” said Matthew J. Lohr, Commissioner of VDACS, the agency that administers the state’s farmland preservation program. “Preserving working farms not only keeps the land from development or disuse,” he added, “but also maintains the Commonwealth’s number one industry, agriculture. At the same time, we are taking steps to ensure the continuation of a reliable food supply for the future within our own borders.”
Localities interested in future rounds of grant applications for PDR matching funds should contact the Office of Farmland Preservation, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, 102 Governor St., Richmond VA 23219 or call 804.786.1346. Or they may e-mail Kevin Schmidt, the Office of Farmland Preservation Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Edited by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at email@example.com.