State purchases largest number of easements through AgLands Preservation Program
The state is making one of its biggest moves ever to preserve farmland this year.
The state purchased the development rights to 111 farms across the state through its AgLands Preservation Program. That’s the most easements in a single round since the Department of Agriculture program began 23 years ago, according to officials.
This year’s purchase totals more than 9,000 acres.
The goal of the program is to permanently preserve the land as farmland, which Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Austin Short says is good for the state’s economy.
“People often forget, ag[riculture] is our biggest industry,” he said. “It’s over $1 billion in direct sales, and when you look at the ripples through the economy, it’s over $8 billion. And obviously you’ve got to have land in order to have agriculture.”
Short adds farmland preservation has other benefits. “It’s great to drive down the road and see farmland, and it has environmental benefits too. It provides habitat for wildlife and helps protect our water supply through our forests.”
Short says this round of easement purchases cost over $15 million, paid for by a mix of state, county and federal money.
The state purchases easements on the farms that offer the deepest discounts on the appraised value of their easements. Landowners who sell their development rights through the program receive farm and tax benefits.
“Certainly all farms are important, we want to preserve as many as we can, but we’re certainly pleased when we can preserve those that have good soil and are near some of the more intense development pressure too,” said Short.
This round of easement selection included roughly 500 acres in New Castle County, roughly 3,400 acres in Kent County and roughly 5,400 in Sussex County.