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Delaware preserves just under 3,700 farm acres despite reduced funding during pandemic

Delaware Public Media

The state is continuing its effort to preserve farmland in Delaware.

The Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation has now preserved more than 143,000 acres in the state since it got its start 25 years ago. That’s about 27 percent of Delaware’s total farmland. Its stated goal is 50 percent.

The latest round of easements includes 45 different farms and four forested properties totaling 3,695 acres all in Kent and Sussex Counties.

The foundation’s program director Jimmy Kroon says it’s a good amount of land considering the program saw reduced funding for this year.

“The last few years we’ve received $10 million, and then then we got $5 million this year, which we were really happy with, because the state was still dealing with COVID,” said Kroon.             

This year’s purchases also had support from federal funding and funding from the two counties.

The foundation has been approved for another $10 million for the Fiscal Year 2022 budget, and Kroon says there’s still a lot of interest from Delaware farmers, but not too much to drive down the price.

“We still are receiving more bids than we have money for, but what that really means is that farmers that are interested in selling their development rights have a much better chance of getting selected without having to bid as high as they think they need to,” he said.             

The foundation does not buy land from Delaware landowners, but instead buys development rights for 41 cents on the dollar and places a permanent agricultural conservation easement on the property.

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