Since the Jamestown settlers planted their first crops 400 years ago, farming and forestry have been central to the spirit and success of the state. 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 13,500,000 of Virginia’s approximately 25 million acres remained in farmland. In 2007, the total was 8,103,925 acres, a loss of more than five million acres of Virginia farmland in less than 50 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 to help reverse the trend. Under the Code of Virginia, the Office is charged with five important missions:
- To 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
- To create programs to educate the public about the importance of farmland preservation
- To help farmers with farmland preservation efforts
- To assist local governments in developing additional farmland preservation policies and programs
- To administer the Virginia Farm Link program
FY 2014 State Matching Funds for Local Purchase of Development Rights Now Available! Click here for more information.
Commissioner Lohr's article on conservation easement . Click here for more information.
New Certified Farm Seeker Program Available. Click here for more information.
Metro Business asked Matt Lohr, Virginia's agriculture commissioner, about why farmland preservation is a priority for the state. Click here to view the interview.
Additional Farmland Preservation Information and Technical Assistance:
Virginia: Kevin Schmidt, Coordinator, OFP
Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
102 Governor Street, Richmond, VA 23219
804.786.1346 • Fax: 804.371.7786
National: Farmland Information Center
a partnership of USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and American Farmland Trust (AFT).