September 9, 2019
~ Major milestone achieved for program providing matching funds to local Purchase of Development Rights programs ~
BEALETON—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that more than 100 conservation easements for working farms and forests have been secured through the Virginia Farmland Preservation Fund. By providing matching funds to support local Purchase of Development Rights programs, the Fund enhances the viability of Virginia agriculture and forestry by empowering individual localities to limit development on the farmland and forestland that each community has deemed a priority for conservation. The Governor visited Messick’s Farm Market to celebrate this achievement and has also issued a proclamation to commemorate the major milestone.
“My administration has made farmland and forestland retention one of our highest priorities, recognizing the significant contributions these lands make to our economy and the important role they have in Virginia’s history and outstanding quality of life,” said Governor Northam. “Together with our conservation partners, we are making the necessary investments in our communities to help maintain the rural and agricultural character of our Commonwealth and ensure our working lands remain unfettered by development and available for continued agriculture or forestry production.”
Since 2008, sixteen localities have used state funding to purchase 102 conservation easements covering 13,917 acres at a cost of $32,897,840. Participating localities contributed $15,206,855 towards these projects, with the Virginia Farmland Preservation Fund providing $11,896,900 and the remainder coming from a combination of federal, state, and private funds. Conservation easements supported by the Virginia Farmland Preservation Fund perpetually ensure these protected lands stay intact as working farms and forests.
“Agriculture and forestry are Virginia’s first and third largest industries and preserving farm and forestland is crucial to protecting the many economic, environmental, and social benefits these lands provide,” said Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “The continued success of the Virginia Farmland Preservation Fund and prevalence of local Purchase of Development Rights programs highlights a robust partnership of state and local governments demonstrating a shared commitment to the preservation of Virginia’s working farms and forests.”
The Virginia Farmland Preservation Fund is administered by the Office of Farmland Preservation within the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumers Services. This Office was created by the Virginia General Assembly in 2001 to educate the public on the importance of farmland preservation to the quality of life in the Commonwealth, help farmers in preserving their land and transitioning their business between generations, and assist local governments interested in developing additional farmland preservation policies and programs.
“Protecting and conserving Virginia’s land and waterways, while preserving individual property rights and looking out for the business interests of our farmers and forest landowners are among my top priorities,” said Virginia State Senator Emmett Hanger. “I am proud of my involvement in creating both the Office of Farmland Preservation and the Virginia Farmland Preservation Fund. The success and longevity of these programs demonstrate that preserving our working lands is important to all Virginians.”
“In my first year as Governor of Virginia, I committed to permanently preserving over 400,000 acres of land for future generations,” said United States Senator Tim Kaine. “Part of achieving that goal was supporting local efforts to conserve working farms and forests, and it’s heartening to see the continued success of preservation efforts in the Commonwealth.”
More information about the Virginia Farmland Preservation Fund and the Office of Farmland Preservation, and details about how localities can establish their own Purchase of Development Rights Program is available here.