|Why Are We Losing Our Working Farm and Forest Land?|
The following are some of the reasons why Virginia is losing working farm and forest land.
- Farmers are getting older. According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, the average age of farmers in Virginia is more than 58 years old. Since much of the farmer’s retirement assets are tied up in the business, these assets will increasingly be liquidated to provide for retirement.
- Farmers are not planning for retirement. A survey by VDACS in 2002 showed that most Virginia farmers either do not plan to retire at all or only plan semi-retirement. Of those farmers who plan to retire and transition their farm, only 30 percent have as yet identified a successor. Failure to plan for the transition of the farm can lead to the loss of farmland and the farming operation.
- More land is being taken out of production. According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, between 2002 and 2007, the amount of land in farms in Virginia declined on average by 104,181 acres each year. This is more than a 300 percent increase in the average annual rate of decline from the previous five-year period.
- This decrease in land in farms does not necessarily mean that the land was developed. It does, however, mean that the land is no longer in production, and therefore may be more vulnerable to development. When farmland is developed, the resulting fragmentation of the land base puts new pressures on farmers and foresters who now face a public that is increasingly divorced from agriculture, and who are not accustomed to the sights, sounds and smells associated with working farms and forests.
Why Should We Save Our Working Farm and Forest Land?
Here are a few of the reasons why localities across Virginia have decided to protect their working land.
- Farming and forestry combined are Virginia’s #1 industry ….400 years and counting, accounting for a total economic impact of $79 billion in 2006. Click here for more information.
- Well-managed farm and forest land also produce significant environmental benefits.
- Farm and forest land requires little or no public services. According to American Farmland Trust (AFT) as of August 2007, Cost of Community Service Studies (COCS) have been conducted in more than 128 communities across the county with similar results: Agricultural land generates more in taxes that it requires in services.
- Farm and forest land make significant contributions to local tourism, recreation opportunities and an area’s overall sense of place.
How Can You Support Farmland Preservation in Virginia?
With Your Very Own Agricultural License Plate!
Be the first on your block to show your support for the preservation of Virginia’s working farm and forest land! Not only does the “Farming Since 1614” license plate look great, but $15 of the annual $25 fee per plate goes to the Office of Farmland Preservation to help us in our efforts to preserve agriculture for the future. For more information, please click here.
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).