Farmland preservation takes big step - "We're hoping that this $4.3 million is just the beginning ... "


(Note: John Fulton Lewis must be turning in his grave over this. "Winning" money in such amounts from the General Assembly is nothing more than receiving taxpayer dollars. What a skewed scenario this is...)


March 1, 2007

Virginia Farm Bureau Federation

Lexington, Virginia - Efforts to preserve Virginia farmland took a step forward this year when the General Assembly provided $4.3 million for a statewide cost-share program for purchase of development rights over the next two years.

"This highlights the fact that the General Assembly, in conjunction with the governor, considers farmland preservation to be an important issue," said Brock Herzberg, assistant director of governmental relations for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. "The governor put the money in there, and the General Assembly approved funding for a PDR program."

Close to 70 percent of the farmland in Virginia is expected to change ownership in the next decade as current farmers retire. The state lost an average of 23,260 acres of farmland annually to development from 1992 to 1997, according to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Seven Virginia localities now have PDR programs, in which local governments agree to purchase the right to develop land from owners in exchange for an easement keeping it in agricultural or open space use. A statewide PDR program was established in 2001 but didn't receive cost-share funds until this session of the legislature. Herzberg said PDR programs are a good investment of tax dollars.

"The three largest industries in Virginia are agriculture, forestry and tourism, and all of them are natural-resource based," he said. "These lands that are being conserved don't just benefit the landowner; they also benefit the community, the environment and the commonwealth as a whole. Without the land, all these industries and the quality of life in Virginia would suffer."

Governor Tim Kaine made a pledge at the beginning of his term to help place 400,000 acres of land into conservation easements or other preservation options. He was on hand February 27 at the Ham Hill Farm in Rockbridge County to celebrate the Smith family placing 338 acres of their property into a conservation easement under the Virginia Outdoor Fund. The move assures the land can be used for agricultural means only, and the Smiths get a 10-year tax break.

"The 400,000-acre goal is aggressive, but if we don't push, we could lose 60,000 acres a year to development," Kaine said. "Programs like conservation easements and purchase of development rights programs will help us get ahead of this development curve that's chewing up all of these beautiful spaces in Virginia."

Now that state cost-share funds are available, Herzberg is hoping more communities will establish local PDR programs to boost their land preservation efforts. A model PDR ordinance and examples of how some localities have established their programs is available online at

"We're hoping that this $4.3 million is just the beginning and that through this program we can show the value of the PDR program and win additional funding from the General Assembly in upcoming years," Herzberg said.


Jeff Ishee, WSVA in Harrisonburg, contributed to this story.


Contact Herzberg at 804-290-1017 or Norm Hyde, VFBF video producer, at 804-290-1146.