Delaware Receives $1.8 Million Farmland Preservation

WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to preserve and protect thousands of acres of Delaware farmland and open spaces, Delaware’s Congressional delegation today announced that the state will receive over $1.8 million to continue their leadership in acres of farmland preserved per capita. The funding, which was authorized through the FY 2002 Farm Bill, will be made available through the Farmland Protection Program (FPP), a voluntary program that helps farmers and ranchers keep their land in agricultural use in the face of increasing development pressures and decreasing commodity values. “Preserving farmland and open space are crucial to controlling urban sprawl and protecting our environment. I was proud to play a role in establishing the only official program which protects land for agricultural purposes,” said Rep. Mike Castle, who created the Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Program in1991 as Governor of Delaware. “This program is especially important because it keeps farmland in production and is voluntary.” “Agriculture is vital to our economy and this money will help Delaware’s farmers preserve and protect their land while still remaining competitive, productive and financially secure,” said Senator Biden. “There are many good initiatives I inherited from Mike Castle, but the Farmland Protection Program was among the best. Each year while I was Governor, I made it a priority to preserve more of our valuable Delaware farmland,” said U.S. Senator Tom Carper. “I am proud of what we have done in Delaware. We must continue to work to protect and preserve our unique Delmarva agricultural landscape. This $1.8 million will help us remain the leader in farmland preservation.” Agriculture is Delaware’s number one industry. Of the state’s 1.25 million acres, over 470,000 are harvested in cropland, ranking Delaware 5th in the nation with 37.5 percent of the total land area in productive cropland. Currently, Delaware leads the nation in the percentage of protected farmland, with 5.2% of our total land area and 11.3% of our land in farms permanently preserved through agricultural easements. Farmers and landowners who voluntarily participate in the Farmland Protection Program place their lands into Agricultural Preservation Districts and agree to not develop their lands for at least 10 years, devoting the land only to agriculture and related uses. In return, the owners receive tax benefits, right-to-farm protection, and an opportunity to sell a preservation easement to the state that keeps the land free from development permanently. According to the Delaware Department of Agriculture, purchasing agricultural easement on farmland costs the government approximately $1,400 an acre. Federal funds can be used to pay 50 percent of the costs, so after leveraging state funds, $1,836,500 will allow an additional 2,623 acres of prime Delaware farmland to be permanently protected through agricultural easement purchases. The Congressional delegation noted that Delaware received more funding through the FPP than several other large agriculture-producing states such as Georgia ($1.4 million), Indiana ($938,000), Iowa ($705,000) and New York ($1.5 million).