Since the Jamestown settlers planted their first crops more than 400 years ago, farming and forestry have been central to Virginia’s spirit and success. They have sustained the citizens of the Commonwealth by providing vital economic, industrial, environmental, aesthetic and social benefits.
Early in Virginia’s history, land devoted to farming and forestry covered most of the state. By 1960, only 13.5 million acres of Virginia’s approximately 25 million acres remained in farmland. In 2012, the total was 8.3 million acres, a loss of more than five million acres of Virginia farmland in 52 years. Statistics tell a similar story for Virginia’s forests. In 2003, Virginia had 15.8 million acres of forestland which represents a decline of 180,600 acres since 1992.
Times have changed, but the need for farm and forestlands and the businesses they support has not diminished. Recognizing the significance of the loss of agricultural land and forests and the negative impact it would have on the state, the 2001 Virginia General Assembly established the Office of Farmland Preservation within the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) to help reverse the trend.
Under the Code of Virginia, the Office of Farmland Preservation is charged with five important missions:
- Work with other governmental and private organizations to help establish local purchase of development rights (PDR) programs by creating model policies and practices, establishing criteria to certify programs as eligible to receive funds from public sources, and determining methods and sources of funding for localities to purchase agricultural conservation easements
- Create programs to educate the public about the importance of farmland preservation
- Help farmers with farmland preservation efforts.
- Assist local governments in developing additional farmland preservation policies and programs
- Administer the Virginia Farm Link program.
Programs & More Information
Each year, the Office of Farmland Preservation is required to submit a written report on the operations of the office to the chairmen of the House Committee on Agriculture and the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources. Links to recent annual reports can be found below.
Andy Sorrell, AICP
VDACS Office of Farmland Preservation
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