Last week’s article “The Land, a Plan, a Future,” a special report by the Foothills Forum, was quite informative, but also brought up some alarming points about the future of this county. In the report, it seemed to me that land use taxation, a fundamental tool for most all rural counties in Virginia, came under fire.
Rappahannock has been able to maintain its rural identity, open spaces and strong agricultural heritage through land use taxation. However, the graphs, and particularly the line chart showing the “reduction due to land use deferment” alluded to the potential loss of revenue for the county’s coffers. You can’t count money that you don’t have and this is the fuel that folks who want to see land use banished need to make their cases. The author seemed to take a position for moving away from land use in order to obtain more revenue for the county. I believe the county, and its citizens, should put a stronger focus on fiscal conservancy than finding additional ways to spend money we don’t have for services that we don’t need.
Cliff Miller’s quote that “the future is not farming in Rappahannock” is not only disturbing, but troubling in the context of our Comprehensive Plan. Are there less people farming now than 80 years ago? Yes, mainly due to the loss of small orchards, the formation of the Shenandoah National Park and the mechanization of agricultural equipment. Will farms disappear in the county as they have in Fairfax or eastern Loudoun. I don’t think so.
Farmland is one of the main reasons we have people visit our county from urban areas. They want to see livestock grazing in pastures, hay bales being made in the summer, tractors on the roads and even the occasional foxhunt in the late fall and winter.
Mr. Miller goes on to say that hay production is not beneficial for the environment and that land becomes worse and worse over time under this type of land management. This statement is not representative of the hard working men and women who make their living off the land. Farmers are stewards of the land and for his quote to insinuate that farmers are “mining” the land is appalling. If you’re a farmer, you sure don’t stay in business long if you don’t nourish the land and replenish the fertility.
So sure, let’s have an “open space” tax category where no one has to actually use the land to produce an agricultural product, just let it grow up in wildflowers and to be used for hiking meadows. Rappahannock County is blessed with scenic beauty, productive farms and abundant natural resources, but let’s not forget the elements that adorn our county seal.
David H. Massie