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Office of Farmland Preservation (OFP)
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Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) Programs

Purchase of development rights (PDR) programs are designed to compensate landowners who voluntarily place an agricultural conservation easement on their property.  A conservation easement is a deed restriction designed to protect a specific conservation purpose. 

The Virginia Farmland Preservation Task Force, established by the VDACS Commissioner, developed a model PDR program outline for the Commonwealth and its localities. A Model Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) Program for Virginia outlines the program elements that each local PDR program should address, and makes recommendations for maximizing the success of these local programs in Virginia.

As of 2014, 21 local governments have established a local PDR program.  (Click here for an updated map of local PDR programs.)  The Office of Farmland Preservation continuously collects the ordinances and related documents for these programs and will make them available online as soon as possible.

22 Local PDR Programs

Chesapeake (City)
Web site
Program Ordinance

New Kent County
Program ordinance

Culpeper County

Rockbridge County
Program ordinance

Shenandoah County
Program Ordinance

Franklin County
Program ordinance

Spotsylvania County
Program ordinance

James City County
Web site
Program Ordinance


Localities interested in developing a PDR program may want to consider attending the next meeting of the local PDR managers group.  The PDR managers also host an online discussion group.  Click here to sign up for the PDR Managers Google Group.  For more information, please contact Jenny McPherson, Agricultural Reserve Program Coordinator, City of Virginia Beach Department of Agriculture at 757.385.8637 or

Matching funds for local PDR programs
As of March 31, 2014, $6,525,805.18 in state matching funds from the Virginia Farmland Preservation Fund administered by OFP has been used in part to permanently protect 7,152.16 acres (53 easements) in partnership with 14 local PDR programs. OFP provided $6.53 million of the $18.87 million in total purchase price and transaction costs paid for these easements. 


Acres Protected
Local Funding
State PDR Funding
Other Funding
Albemarle County 6 712.66 $1,333,673.29 $774,014.71  
Chesapeake City 1 64.01 $505,534.58 $110,952.46  
Clarke County 20 1,790.81 $721,248.08 $721,246.11 $2,319,275.00
Fauquier County 6 1,739.31 $1,391,959.09 $1,061,339.91 $100,000.00
Frederick County 1 89.75 $5,000.00 $130,027.00 $260,000.00
Goochland County 1 500.93 $155,623.50 $155,623.50  
Isle of Wight County 3 585.40 $1,794,862.79 $1,547,744.21  
James City County 2 142.70 $489,551.71 $344,713.39  
Northampton County 2 440.25 $114,027.85 $114,027.85 $1,238,000.00
Rappahannock County 2 343.23 $157,431.00 $156,666.00  
Spotsylvania County 1 59.08 $49,809.28 $49,809.28 $87,500.00
Stafford County 3 264.62 $682,441.40 $675,729.10  
Virginia Beach City 4 258.17 $915,068.34 $642,911.66  
Washington County 1 161.24 $41,000.00 $41,000.00 $190,426.00
TOTAL 53 7,152.16 $8,357,230.91 $6,525,805.18 $4,195,201.00

* Includes easement purchase price and in some cases incidentals such as surveys, title insurance, appraisals, reasonable legal fees, etc.

Upcoming PDR matching funding opportunities
The Office of Farmland Preservation (OFP) has approximately $1.983 million in funding available for the FY 2016 allocation round.  This is a combination of FY 2016 funding, previously-awarded funds that were not utilized and interest.  Please note that this amount is subject to any budget reductions that may occur during the 2016 Session of the General Assembly and that the total amount of funding available may not be finalized until March or April 2016.

To apply for the FY 2016 allocation round, the following two (2) completed forms are required to be submitted no later than Friday, October 30, 2015 by each eligible locality:

Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) Programs

The Code of Virginia authorizes localities to establish programs that transfer the development rights from a “sending” property (property that the locality is trying to protect) to one or more “receiving” properties (properties where the locality is trying to encourage development). While this allowance was established in 2006, no locality established a TDR ordinance as of January 2008.  Recognizing this, the 2008 General Assembly established a joint legislative subcommittee that examined the transfer of development rights, and ways to make these programs more appealing to localities. The joint committee recommendations were incorporated into House Bill 2055, which was passed by the General Assembly in the 2009 session. In late 2009, representatives of local governments, developers, realtors, conservation and agricultural organizations met to develop a model ordinance designed to spur localities’ adoption of TDR provisions in Virginia. Please click here for more information on this initiative.  In April 2010, Frederick County became the first locality to adopt a local TDR ordinance under the revisions established to the enabling legislation in the 2009 General Assembly.  Please see below for more information.

2 Local TDR Program

Stafford County
TDR ordinance

Agricultural and Forestal Districts

The Code of Virginia authorizes localities to adopt districts designed to protect working farm and forest land.  These agricultural and forestal districts are voluntary agreements between landowners and the locality, and offer benefits to landowners that agree to keep their land in its current use for a period of 4 to 10 years. Localities are required by the Code of Virginia to provide the Commissioner of VDACS with a copy of the ordinance for new agricultural and forestal districts, and any changes that are made to these districts. Please click here for more information on agricultural and forestal districts.

Please click here to see the most recent list (as of May 5, 2014) of local districts and the acres held in these districts across Virginia. 

Use Value Assessment

The Code of Virginia allows localities to assess land that meets certain eligibility requirements at its current use value and not at its fair market value when determining local property taxes. The four categories for use value assessment are agricultural, horticultural, forestry and open space. Suggested tax rates for each of these categories are provided to localities by the State Land Evaluation and Advisory Council (SLEAC), of which VDACS is a member. For more information on the use value assessment program and SLEAC, please click here.

Conservation Easement Donation  

In addition to the local farmland preservation programs outlined above there also are additional options for landowners interested in donating a conservation easement on their property.

Please visit the following for more information on conservation easements and state agencies/non-profit organizations that accept easements:

Agricultural Conservation Easements, Farmland Information Center, American Farmland Trust

DCR's Office of Land Conservation

Landowner Considerations in Selling Development Rights or Donating Conservation Easements, Jesse J. Richardson, Jr. and Leon Geyer

Virginia Outdoors Foundation

Additional Farmland Preservation Information and Technical Assistance:

Virginia: Andrew V. Sorrell, Coordinator, OFP 
Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
102 Governor Street, Richmond, VA 23219
804.786.1906, FAX: 804.371.7786

National: Farmland Information Center
a partnership of USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and American Farmland Trust (AFT).

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