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State takes steps to save farmland
Two area localities receive state grants to preserve farmland

 Spotsylvania rejected a 256-home subdivision on 127 farmland acres near Shannon Airport (bottom) in 2002.
FILE/SUZANNE CARR ROSSI/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 1/7/2011

By RUSTY DENNEN

Two Fredericksburg-area localities are among eight jurisdictions receiving state grants to help preserve farmland.

Gov. Bob McDonnell announced yesterday that $100,000 in grants will be available from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Among those receiving money are Spotsylvania and Fauquier counties, along with Albemarle, Clarke, Isle of Wight, New Kent, Northampton, and the city of Virginia Beach.

Applicants had to report how much money was available in local Purchase of Development Rights programs. State funds matched that amount, up to $12,500 per locality. PDR programs compensate landowners who permanently preserve land by voluntarily placing a perpetual conservation easement on it.

The eight jurisdictions reported more than $17 million available in local matching funds.

"Local governments are a key component in preserving working farmland," said Matthew J. Lohr, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

"Preserving working farms not only keeps the land from development or disuse, but also maintains the commonwealth's number one industry, agriculture."

McDonnell said that despite the ongoing budget crunch, "I am committed to setting aside funds for preserving farmlands--lands that are producing goods, providing jobs and generating tax revenue for localities."

He said the farmland preservation program fits in with another key effort.

"One of my top environmental priorities is to permanently preserve 400,000 acres of land during my administration."

The budget he submitted to the General Assembly in December includes an amendment to provide $400,000 more for PDR programs in the next fiscal year, for a total of $500,000.

Twenty-two local PDR programs exist in Virginia, 15 of which have some local funding currently available. This is the fourth time the state has provided matching funds for certified local PDR programs.

A total of $5.25 million has been allocated since February 2008. To date, 4,047 acres on 27 farms in 11 localities have been permanently protected, in part, with the money.

Another 511 acres on six farms have been approved and are awaiting closing. Additional easements are expected to close, using these funds, over the next two years.

Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431
Email: rdennen@freelancestar.com