Rappahannock County was among the eight jurisdictions statewide that Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced this week would receive fiscal-year 2014 farmland preservation grants.
The eight localities to receive the the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) grants must use the funds to preserve farmland within their boundaries through local Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) programs, which compensate landowners who work with localities to preserve their land permanently by voluntarily placing a perpetual conservation easement on it.
VDACS allocated $149,678 each to the counties of Albemarle, Clarke, Fauquier, Isle of Wight, James City and Stafford, and the city of Virginia Beach. Rappahannock County will receive an $11,000 grant. The allocations total a little more than $1.058 million, bringing the total allocation of state matching funds to $8.68 million since 2008, when PDR funds were first distributed.
Rappahannock’s fiscal-year 2014 distribution follows a $50,000 PDR grant the county received last year; the grant funds for both last year and this year have already been matched by the Rappahannock County Conservation Alliance (RCCA), says county administrator John McCarthy.
This is the seventh time that the state has provided state matching funds for certified local PDR programs. Of the 22 local PDR programs in Virginia, 18 have received local funding over the past few years. To date, more than 6,700 acres on 49 farms in 12 localities have been permanently protected in part with $6 million of these funds.
In Rappahannock, McCarthy said, about 500 acres on three farms, all in the Amissville area, were preserved last year under the program. Although no local property owners have yet applied this year, he added, the county will begin promoting the availability of new farmland-preservation funds this spring.
“Today’s announcement, which will be the first of many, highlights my administration’s goal of conserving Virginia’s working lands, an important component of land preservation, said Gov. McAuliffe in a prepared statement on Tuesday (Jan. 21). “These grants are the first step toward my administration’s goal of conserving 400,000 acres of open space and working lands across Virginia. I applaud the commitment of my predecessors and the General Assembly to land preservation, and I look forward to building on the successes they have achieved over the last eight years.”
“Adequate and accessible working lands are the foundation of agriculture and forestry, Virginia’s largest industries,” said agriculture and forestry secretary Todd Haymore. “Local governments receiving these funds will be able to use them alongside their dedicated local support, creating new opportunities to preserve working farmland, produce goods for purchase, create jobs, generate tax revenue and protect our precious natural resources. I look forward to working with Gov. McAuliffe, natural resources secretary Molly Ward, localities and landowners during the next four years to preserve as many working land acres as possible.”
Localities interested in future rounds of grant applications for PDR matching funds should contact the Office of Farmland Preservation at the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Email Andrew Sorrell, the office’s coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 804-786-1906.