Farmland preservation program adds another 134,000 acres

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More than 134,000 acres of Delaware farmland are now permanently preserved.

It marks the 23rd consecutive year of easement selections by the Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation.

Sources for the funding for easements include the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), the United States Navy’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program, Sussex County Council, New Castle County Council, and Kent County Levy Court.

“I am proud to announce the largest round of Delaware farms permanently preserved through the Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Program in the history of the program. With the purchase of the development rights of 111 farms totaling 9,382 acres, we have successfully preserved 25 percent of Delaware’s farmland,” Gov. John Carney stated.

In this round of easement selections, six farms in New Castle County, 39 in Kent County, and 66 in Sussex County were preserved.

“With today’s announcement we preserved our 100th farm in New Castle County and our 400th farm in Sussex and will have almost 500 farms in Kent County,” announcedDelaware Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse. Along with crediting the partners who provided funding for this round, he recognized the contributions of the landowners. “Over the life of the program, landowners have donated, on average, 58 percent of their development rights value – that is they received 42 cents on the dollar of their farm’s development rights value to preserve their farm. The average discount (donation) for Round 23 is 66 percent. This is a great investment not only for agriculture but all Delawareans.”

The Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation selects those farms approved for easement purchase using a discounted ranking system that maximizes benefits for taxpayers. The foundation does not own the land, but rather purchases landowners’ development rights and places a permanent agricultural conservation easement on the property.

Landowners must first voluntarily enroll their farm into a 10-year preservation district before they can sell an easement. In addition to over 134,000 acres in permanent easements, Delaware’s Aglands Preservation Program has over 174,000 acres of land enrolled in farmland preservation districts.

One of the lesser-known partnerships involves the U.S. Navy, which operates a test range that extends into a small portion of southern Delaware.

The Navy has used farmland easements as a way to limit development and reduce risks to property and people from test flights.

To date, the Navy has partnered with Delaware on three parcels and hope to partner on additional parcels over the next few years.

The program has been criticized at times for setting aside land in areas that are unlikely to see development while doing little to control traffic-generating sprawl around coastal areas and portions of MOT (Middletown, Odessa, Townsend in New Castle County.

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