Augusta Free Press

Virginia localities receive funds to place working farmlands under permanent conservation easements

Governor Terry McAuliffe today announced the fiscal year 2018 farmland preservation grant recipients. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ (VDACS) Office of Farmland Preservation has awarded a total of $308,076 to five localities. Localities must use the grants 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 securing a perpetual conservation easement.

VDACS allocated a little more than $61,600 each to Albemarle, Clarke, Fauquier and Stafford counties, as well as the City of Virginia Beach. These grant allocations bring the total allocation of state matching funds to more than $12.2 million since 2008 when PDR funds were first distributed.

“It is extremely important that we continue to help local governments and the farming industry protect and manage their land resources,” said Governor McAuliffe. “In addition to conserving farmlands, these grants will allow Virginia farmers to continue to produce high quality agricultural products that are marketed here and around the world. I look forward to seeing how our new Virginia economy will continue to grow with our agriculture and forestry industries at the forefront.”

“Many people don’t realize that our farm and forest lands provide products, jobs, revenue, tax dollars and more while demanding very little, if anything, from their city or county,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Dr. Basil Gooden. “In addition, they contribute much to the quality of life for all Virginians. The VDACS Office of Farmland Preservation and these localities will work in voluntary partnership with landowners to permanently preserve these valuable and irreplaceable working lands.”

“This investment will pay environmental dividends for generations to come,” said Sandy Adams, VDACS Commissioner. “In addition to tangible benefits such as farm cash receipts and jobs, agriculture provides many intangible benefits in the form of recreation, tourism, wildlife habitat, food mitigation, improved water quality and soil stabilization.”

This is the eleventh time that the Commonwealth has provided state matching funds for certified local PDR programs. Of the 23 local PDR programs in Virginia, 19 have received local funding over the past few years. To date, more than 12,941 acres on 92 farms in 15 localities have been permanently protected in part with $11.2 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 VDACS Office of Farmland Preservation Coordinator, Andy Sorrell, at Andrew.Sorrell@vdacs.virginia.gov or call 804.786.1906.