‘Stewards’ of Rappahannock

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

About Staff/Contributed 5507 Articles
The Rappahannock News welcomes contributions from any and all members of the community. Email news and photos to editor@rappnews.com or call us at 540-675-3338.

1 Comment

  1. In Loudoun County there also have been periodic challenges to the land use tax. Included in the confusion is the mistaken assumption by suburbanites that rural homes (and the acre or so they sit on) are not taxed at the same rate as houses in the suburban areas. In our county, under relentless pressure from the development industry, the argument for the preservation of the reduced rate is that working farmland and other open space do not require the services from government that housing developments do (in fact, it subsidizes the developed areas, as the original article notes), and that the quickest way to have farmland sprout houses is to eliminate the land use tax. Up here we also learned that the farmers (some of them actually real estate speculators) who said farming was on the decline were actually hoping for a sweet deal from a developer. As far as hay making, good farmers (whether they lease or own the acreage) will farm responsibly. Weekenders who just want somebody to get rid of the nuisance of the green stuff growing on their unused acreage (and who are not cultivating meadows for habitat), may need incentive or direction to address land management issues. We too have lots of obese houses (though many fewer “weekenders”), with five or ten acres of “lawn.” Sometimes covenants prevent any agricultural activity. Such a waste. If you all want us to send down there some of the developers swarming our planning department, just let us know! But don’t think it will end well.

Comments are closed.