GOP criticizes Gov. Markell's handling of farmland preservation in weekly message
In the weekly Republican message, state Representative Dave Wilson criticized Governor Jack Markell’s administration for defunding Delaware’s Farmland Preservation Program.
That program sets aside money every year for the state to buy development rights to farm property, ensuring it remains in agricultural use. Wilson says Markell has depleted the program’s fund for the past five years, including in his proposed fiscal year 2016 budget, which would only provide 30 percent of the $10 million in annual funding originally intended.
Wilson says lawmakers should act to restore the program’s funds.
"It’s time for the General Assembly to take action, guaranteeing that farmland preservation gets the stable, predictable source of funding it was promised 10 years ago," he says.
Wilson says the Farmland Preservation Program is essential in a state that sees its total acreage of land devoted to farming decrease each year.
Full text of GOP weekly message from State Representative Dave Wilson
Hi, I am State Rep. Dave Wilson. I'm speaking to you from a farm, just south of Lincoln.
Agriculture is our state's leading industry, with approximately 1.5 billion dollars in annual sales. Delaware farms comprise nearly 500-thousand acres, or about 40-percent of our total landmass. But farmland acreage has dropped every year.
That's a concern, because maintaining a critical mass of farmland is essential to supporting needed farm services.
This is one of the reasons why the Delaware Aglands Preservation Program is so important. Through the program, the state buys the development rights to farm property at a steep discount, ensuring it remains in agricultural use and saving open space. Delaware enacted a law in 2005 to guarantee the program's funding, earmarking 10 million dollars annually from the state's share of the Realty Transfer Tax. But that funding has been under steady assault. For the fifth year in a row, the Markell administration has suggested taking most of the program's money for other uses. Under his most recent budget, Governor Markell suggested funding the program at only 30-percent of what is called for under the law.
Because the funding law is not part of the state constitution, the money for Farmland Preservation is vulnerable to being raided. In recent years, we have missed chances to leverage federal matching funds; take advantage of the sluggish real estate market; and address the large backlog of farmers who have waited years to take part in the preservation program.
It is time for the General Assembly to take action, guaranteeing that farmland preservation gets the stable, predictable source of funding it was promised ten years ago.