RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced on Wednesday the recipients of fiscal year 2016 farmland preservation grants. Six localities have been awarded almost $2 million from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) Office of Farmland Preservation. Localities must use the grant monies to permanently preserve working farmland within their boundaries through local Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) programs. PDR programs compensate landowners who work with localities to permanently preserve their land by voluntarily securing a perpetual conservation easement.
VDACS allocated $411,890 each to the counties of Albemarle, Fauquier, and Stafford, as well as the City of Virginia Beach. James City County will receive a $307,889 grant and Clarke County will receive a $42,319 grant. These grant allocations bring the total allocation of state matching funds to more than $11.4 million since 2008 when PDR funds were first distributed.
Speaking about the farmland preservation grants, McAuliffe said, “Today we have taken another important step forward in the Virginia Treasures initiative, my administration’s new strategy for conserving land and expanding access to public outdoor recreation. In addition to conserving farmlands, the grants being awarded today will help Virginia continue to produce high-quality agricultural products that are marketed here and around the world. Preserving natural and agricultural treasures and promoting our outstanding products are important elements of our ongoing work to build a new Virginia economy.”
“Virginia’s farmland preservation program is a relatively small, but no less important, component of the Governor’s Virginia Treasures initiative,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore. “Working farm and forest lands are important assets for Virginia’s economy as they provide products, jobs, revenue, tax dollars, and more while demanding very little, if anything, from their host localities. I applaud the efforts of the VDACS Office of Farmland Preservation and the six localities that will now work in voluntary partnership with landowners to preserve permanently targeted and valuable working lands.”
“Open spaces are essential habitat for the Commonwealth’s communities – both ecological and human,” added Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward. “In addition to clear economic, agricultural, and aesthetic benefits, this investment will pay environmental dividends for generations to come.”
This is the ninth time that the Commonwealth 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 9,670 acres on 68 farms in 15 localities have been permanently protected in part with $7.8 million of these funds. Additional easements are expected to close using the remaining funds over the next two years.