Governor Ralph Northam today announced the recipients of fiscal year 2019 farmland preservation grants. Six localities have been awarded a total of $633,831 from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ (VDACS) Office of Farmland Preservation. The funds will be used to permanently preserve working farmland through local Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) programs. PDR programs compensate landowners who work with localities to preserve their land permanently by voluntarily securing a perpetual conservation easement.
VDACS has allocated funding to Albemarle, Clarke, Fauquier and Stafford counties as well as the cities of Chesapeake and Virginia Beach. These grant allocations bring the total allocation of state matching funds to $12.4 million since 2008, when PDR funds were first distributed.
“Preserving Virginia’s working farm and forest lands is a key priority of my administration and a central component to our land conservation strategy,” said Governor Northam. “By helping these localities and individual landowners protect their most valuable assets, we will ensure that our agricultural sector—Virginia’s largest private industry—remains viable, sustains more than 442,000 jobs in our Commonwealth, and supports our environmental management efforts.”
“The vitality of our economy, which is built upon agriculture and tourism, is dependent on preserving open spaces,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “Keeping working farm and forest lands in production is good for Virginia, good for the environment, and good for the economy.”
“Investing in conservation remains a priority for Virginia,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Matt Strickler. “Land conservation is an important tool in preserving critical ecological habitats throughout the Commonwealth.”
This is the twelfth 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 13,300 acres on 95 farms in 16 localities have been permanently protected, in part with $11.4 million of these funds. VDACS expect that additional easements will 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, Jen Perkins, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (804) 786-1906.