Workshop to focus on farmland conservation

Commissioner of Agriculture Matt Lohr will open an evening workshop on farmland conservation to be held at Weyers Cave Community Center on Monday, May 16th at 7 p.m. Lohr will address efforts to meet Gov. Bob McDonnell’s goal of conserving 400,000 acres of land during his term.

To that end, various state agencies and private groups are working to help farmers throughout the commonwealth become better informed regarding their options for conserving land.

The intended audience for Monday’s workshop is landowners who are interested in understanding the voluntary tools, such as conservation easements, that are available for keeping their land intact and productive for future generations. The focus will be on “working lands”–farms and forests that are providing viable agricultural and forestal production.

“Limiting development through a conservation easement is not appropriate for all land or for all families” says workshop organizer John Eckman, executive director of the private nonprofit land trust, Valley Conservation Council. “But for people who want to see their land available for farming in the future, it is worth exploring.”

Conservation easements allow the land to stay in private ownership while permanently protecting important agricultural resources, including soils and forests. Both federal and state financial incentives are available for the donation of a conservation easement on qualifying land. Virginia is rare in offering a transferable tax credit for land conservation that can be sold for cash. “We have Valley farmers who have sold these tax credits to purchase the property next door or to buy equipment to expand their operations. Others have built a nest egg for retirement without having to sell off their land” says Eckman.

Speakers for the workshop include Lohr, Eckman, attorney Mark Botkin of the law firm BotkinRose PLC, and Laura Thurman, easement specialist with the Virginia Outdoors Foundation. Details and directions are available at www.valleyconservation.org or by calling the Valley Conservation Council office at 540.886.3541



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