State Awards Nearly $2 Million in Farmland Preservation Grants

Six Virginia localities are receiving fiscal 2016 grants to place working farmland under permanent conservation easements.

Trey Davis

On Dec. 30, 2015, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced that five counties and one city will receive almost $2 million in farmland preservation grants from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Office of Farmland Preservation. The localities must use the grant monies to permanently preserve working farmland through local purchase of development rights, or PDR, programs.

PDR programs compensate landowners who voluntarily secure perpetual conservation easements. Such easements assure that land will never be developed but allow for farming and forestry activities.

VDACS allocated $411,890 each to the counties of Albemarle, Fauquier and Stafford and the city of Virginia Beach. James City County will receive a $307,889 grant, and Clarke County will receive a $42,319 grant.

The grants bring the total allocation of state matching PDR funds to more than $11.4 million since 2008, when such funds were first distributed.

In addition to conserving farmland, McAuliffe said, the grants “will help Virginia continue to produce high-quality agricultural products that are marketed here and around the world. Preserving natural and agricultural treasures and promoting our outstanding products are important elements of our ongoing work to build a new Virginia economy.”

Twenty-two local PDR programs have been established in Virginia. To date, more than 9,600 acres on 68 farms in 15 localities have been permanently protected.

Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, the state’s largest farmers’ advocacy organization, has long been a proponent of local PDR programs.

“State farmland preservation grants have played a critical role in keeping local PDR programs viable and, ultimately, supporting Virginia’s largest industry,” said Trey Davis, VFBF assistant director of governmental relations. “These are properties that provide not only products, but also jobs and local revenues while requiring relatively little in public services.

“PDR programs also go a long way toward preserving the character of rural areas—the things that make these communities desirable places in which to live and work.”

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