Delaware announces largest round of farms preserved in state history

Governor John Carney announced that more than 134,000 acres of Delaware farmland are now permanently preserved for future generations. This is the 23rd consecutive year of easement selections by the Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation. Many of the farms in this round would not have been preserved without matching funds from multiple sources, including the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), the United States Navy’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program, Sussex County Council, New Castle County Council, and Kent County Levy Court.

GIS Map of Delaware showing the parcels throughout the state selected.“Since the start of my administration, I have placed a high priority on preserving Delaware’s farmland so that agriculture will continue to be our state’s number one industry,” said Governor Carney. “I am proud to announce the largest round of Delaware farms permanently preserved through the Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Program in the history of the program. With the purchase of the development rights of 111 farms totaling 9,382 acres, we have successfully preserved 25 percent of Delaware’s farmland.”

In this round of easement selections, there were six farms in New Castle County, 39 in Kent County, and 66 in Sussex County preserved.

“With today’s announcement we preserved our 100th farm in New Castle County and our 400th farm in Sussex and will have almost 500 farms (496) in Kent County,” announced Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse. Along with crediting the partners who provided funding for this round, he recognized the contributions of the landowners. “Over the life of the program, landowners have donated, on average, 58 percent of their development rights value – that is they received 42 cents on the dollar of their farm’s development rights value to preserve their farm. The average discount (donation) for Round 23 is 66 percent. This is a great investment not only for agriculture but all Delawareans.”

The Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation selects those farms approved for easement purchase using an impartial discounted ranking system that maximizes benefits for taxpayers. The Foundation does not own the land, but rather purchases landowners’ development rights and places a permanent agricultural conservation easement on the property. Landowners must first voluntarily enroll their farm into a 10-year preservation district before they can sell an easement. In addition to over 134,000 acres in permanent easements, Delaware’s Aglands Preservation Program has over 174,000 acres of land enrolled in farmland preservation districts.

“The Navy is excited to continue our partnership with the State of Delaware to preserve land that not only benefits working farms and rural lands, but also enables military readiness and the ability of our service men and women to perform critical naval flight activities in the Atlantic Test Range,” said Capt. Geoffrey Moore, Naval District Washington’s Chief of Staff. “This unique partnership over the years has protected the state’s landscapes that are critical to our environment and quality of life while maintaining security of our airspace.” To date, the Navy has partnered with Delaware on three parcels and hope to partner on additional parcels over the next few years.

County governments can choose to partner with the state program and add county funds to select properties in their areas, leveraging state resources for the greatest impact. In the round announced today, all three Delaware county governments provided funds to help purchase easements in their respective counties.

An aerial photograph taken at the press conference held at T.S. Smith & Sons in Bridgeville shows the year and farms preserved in the vicinity.
An aerial photograph taken at the press conference held at T.S. Smith & Sons in Bridgeville shows the year and farms preserved in the vicinity.

“Sussex County is demonstrating once again its support for Delaware’s agriculture industry and its commitment to protecting open space and an enhanced quality of life,” Sussex County Administrator Todd F. Lawson said. “With this latest round, eight more farms totaling 726 acres will be preserved and remain in production. As someone whose family has been rooted in agriculture for generations, I’m incredibly proud to be part of a collective effort that helps keep our economy strong and ensures a piece of the county’s agrarian history remains visible and viable for many years to come.”

This is the first time in eleven years that all three counties provided funding in the same round. The county governments provided nearly two million dollars to help with the purchase of 24 easements.

“New Castle County cherishes farmland, and this year we are pleased to leverage county funds, in partnership with the state, to preserve two additional farms at the best value for taxpayers,” said New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer. “The significant development pressure on our county’s agricultural lands is increasing and we are committed to growing the impact of the state farmland preservation program in New Castle County.”

Delaware’s statewide program made its first round of easement purchases in 1996, and has since preserved 21 percent of New Castle County farmland, 38 percent of Kent County farmland and 18 percent of Sussex County farmland.

“We are very grateful to Governor Carney and the General Assembly for placing high priority on Agland Preservation in Delaware” said Kent County Administrator Mike Petit de Mange. “Kent County is very pleased to partner with the State and our farming community once again to permanently preserve an additional 1,107 acres of working farmlands in Central Delaware.”

The Foundation’s Board of Trustees includes representatives from agriculture and state agencies. Trustees are: Bob Garey, chairman; Bill Vanderwende, vice-chairman; L. Allen Messick Jr., treasurer; William H. “Chip” Narvel Jr., secretary; Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse; State Treasurer Colleen C. Davis; Secretary of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Shawn Garvin; Peter Martin; Theodore P. Bobola Jr.; Robert Emerson; and Janice Truitt.

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Media Contact: Stacey Hofmann, 302-698-4542, stacey.hofmann@delaware.gov

Photographs are available online at Flickr.


Deadline extension for agricultural preservation districts puts Delaware closer to preserving 381,000 acres of farmland

DOVER, Del. – Since 1996, the Delaware AgLands Preservation Program has preserved 127,000 acres of the state’s 508,000 acres currently in agricultural production. After a few years with reduced funding due to statewide budget woes, the tides have turned and the program received full funding this year from Delaware’s General Assembly at 10 million dollars.

“Delaware has the best farmland preservation program in the country. We have preserved 25 percent of our landmass in agriculture, but we have a lot more to go,” said Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse. “Farmland preservation is an important tool that guarantees land will be available for future generations so that we can continue to produce the agricultural commodities needed to feed Delawareans and our neighbors.”

The Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation voted to extended district enrollment until December 31, 2018 to any agricultural landowners who want to preserve their farms and still have the opportunity to submit an application for the upcoming round. Farms must be enrolled in a preservation district before the landowner can sell an easement.

According to the Delaware AgLands Preservation Program, there are currently 300 farms participating in the 10-year voluntary preservation districts eligible to sell their development rights during Round 23. Those farms comprise an additional 46,000 acres that could be permanently preserved.

“Agriculture is an economic driver here in Delaware. Our family farms contribute eight billion dollars to the economy and ensuring their sustainability through farmland preservation is important to Delaware’s future,” said Governor Carney. “Delaware is fortunate to be within eight hours of most of the major population centers, which creates an opportunity for our family farmers producing fruits, vegetables, chickens and grains to enter the retail market. And with the recent agreement to further develop the Port of Wilmington, we are helping to open future international markets for our farmers.”

Typically, landowners are eligible to submit a bid to sell their farm’s development rights the year after they enroll their farm into a district agreement. District applications for the upcoming year would usually have closed on December 31, 2017; however, the Foundation members were concerned that landowners might not have applied by the deadline fearing uncertainty for this year’s budget, so the deadline was extended to December 31, 2018.

The Foundation approves all applications, using an impartial discounted ranking system that maximizes benefits for the taxpayer. The Foundation does not own the land, but rather purchases landowners’ development rights and has a permanent agricultural conservation easement placed on the property.

For more information or to obtain applications related to the Delaware AgLands Preservation Program, interested landowners can visit https://agriculture.delaware.gov or call (302) 698-4530.

The Foundation’s Board of Trustees includes representatives from agriculture and state agencies. Trustees are: Bob Garey, chairman; Bill Vanderwende, vice-chairman; L. Allen Messick Jr., treasurer; William H. “Chip” Narvel Jr., secretary; Secretary of Agriculture Michael Scuse; State Treasurer Ken Simpler; Secretary of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Shawn Garvin; Peter Martin; Theodore P. Bobola Jr.; Robert Emerson; and Janice Truitt.

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Media Contact: Stacey Hofmann, 302-698-4542, Stacey.Hofmann@delaware.gov


Sussex Tech’s Mitchell earns DFA forestry scholarship

DFA 2018 Scholarship
2018 Delaware Forestry Association Scholarship winner Shawn Mitchell (center) received a ceremonial $1,000 check at the Delaware State Fair joined by (from left) his father David Mitchell, DFA director Brian Michalski, his mother Mellissa Mitchell, Agriculture Secretary Michael Scuse, and Gov. John Carney.

HARRINGTON, Del. – Shawn Patrick Mitchell of Greenwood, a recent graduate of Sussex Tech who plans to study wildlife and fisheries at Frostburg State University, received the Delaware Forestry Association’s 2018 scholarship at the Delaware State Fair last week. Agriculture Secretary Michael T. Scuse and Governor John C. Carney were there to present the ceremonial check to Mitchell as his parents David and Melissa looked on. Once he earns his bachelor’s of science degree, Mitchell hopes to be a game warden or park ranger one day.

Mitchell already has a long list of achievements for which to be proud. A National Honor Society member at Sussex Tech, Mitchell achieved honor roll for every marking period—earning a cumulative GPA of 93.8. He has been very active in the 4-H program, serving as Vice-President of the State Teen Council for Delaware 4-H as well as President, Vice-President, and Treasurer of the Sussex County 4-H Junior Council. He has also been actively involved in athletics as a member of the freshman, J.V., and varsity lacrosse teams at Sussex Tech.

“I would like to return to Delaware after I earn my degree. I love being outside and I want to help preserve our parks for future generations to enjoy,” Mitchell said.

According to C. Douglas Crouse, State Program Leader for Delaware 4-H and Youth Development, Shawn has demonstrated the qualities needed to be a leader and a mentor:

“Shawn has shared his leadership skills as a counselor at many 4-H camps, including our State Environmental Camp. As a counselor for several years, Shawn serves in a role to assist younger members in helping to guide them and share knowledge that can be interesting and important to them. He is a people person and has great skills working with younger members. Shawn is an excellent role model and mentor for these younger youth and is well-respected by his peers, ” Crouse said.


Delaware requests emergency declaration from USDA for crop damage due to recent storms

DOVER, Del. — Too much rain at the wrong time, like Delaware experienced in April and May, has destroyed several high dollar crops and threatens the yield of many others, leaving farmers to wonder what the future holds. In surveying the state and listening to farmers, Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse made a request for an emergency disaster declaration two weeks ago to USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) State Service Center.

“Delaware family farms are the backbone of our economy, making agriculture our number one industry,” said Governor Carney. “Farming is hard no matter what – but when you get hit with the weather we have seen this spring, and the damage it has done to our fruit and vegetable crops, our grains, and our hay – it has a huge impact on our farmers, our communities, and the state as a whole.”

Once a request for a declaration is made, the FSA staff begins official surveys of the status of current crops at the state and county level. These reports are then compiled, reviewed, and sent on to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. In order to be eligible for this declaration, Delaware has to have at least 30 percent loss in crop production for at least one crop.

“It is impossible for Delaware farmers to come out of this without emergency assistance,” said Scuse. “Many of our fruit and vegetable farms have taken a beating and other crops definitely will not be able to reach optimal yields. We have farmers who are trying to plant field corn for the third and fourth time. That’s a lot of money invested in seed and when the bill arrives they are going to need help paying it.”

The state has three months from the last day of the disaster to file a declaration request to USDA.

The benefit of an emergency disaster declaration is it gives farmers time to apply and get an emergency loan. These loans help producers to recover from production and physical losses from the torrential rains and flooding in Delaware. Farmers have nine months to apply for the loans once USDA makes the official crop damage declaration, which provides them time to compile the paperwork and only apply for the funds they really need to borrow.

Once submitted, Delaware has to wait to learn if USDA will grant them the emergency declaration.

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Media Contact: Stacey Hofmann, 302-698-4542, stacey.hofmann@delaware.gov


Governor Carney, Delaware Department of Agriculture Announce Interactive Dashboard

Online tool helps Delawareans understand, visualize farmland preserved in all three counties

DOVER, Del. – Governor John Carney and the Delaware Department of Agriculture announced on Thursday a new, interactive dashboard to help Delawareans better understand farmland preservation.

Delaware’s statewide program made its first round of easement purchases in 1996, and has since preserved 22 percent of New Castle County farmland, 38 percent of Kent County farmland and 16 percent of Sussex County farmland. The Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation selects those farms approved for easement purchase using an impartial discounted ranking system that maximizes benefits for taxpayers. The Foundation does not own the land, but rather purchases landowners’ development rights and places a permanent agricultural conservation easement on the property.

The dashboard was released following an easement selection announcement that now preserves more than 127,000 acres of farmland in Delaware. The Delaware Department of Agriculture’s new dashboard creates an interactive experience to help Delawareans see the value of farmland preservation.

“Delaware has a rich farming history and agriculture remains our number one industry,” said Governor Carney. “We’re excited to announce this new, interactive dashboard in order to protect and preserve family farms and to help make them profitable.”

The innovative online dashboard was created through Operations Dashboard for ArcGIS, released by ESRI late last year. The Department is one of the early adopters of the software in the State and in farmland preservation throughout the country. Utilizing real-time data visualization, visitors to the dashboard are able to interact with operational data, see it visually, and gain insight on this round of farmland preservation.

“This new web dashboard helps stakeholders and the public interactively explore our latest round of easement purchases. I hope this increases awareness of the farmland preservation program and provides transparency into how we are spending taxpayer money,” said Jimmy Kroon, DDA GIS Coordinator. “The dashboard also provides stakeholders with quick access to information about preservation activities in specific areas of the state by allowing easement selections data to be filtered by county, legislative district, or watershed.”

Governor Carney’s proposed budget called for $20 million for open space and farmland preservation.

This is the 22nd consecutive year of easement selections by the Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation. The Foundation purchased the development rights of 41 farms totaling 3,534 acres, with one farm in New Castle County, thirty in Kent County, and ten in Sussex County preserved. In addition to over 127,000 acres in permanent easements, Delaware’s Aglands Preservation Program has over 45,000 acres of land enrolled in farmland preservation districts. Landowners must first voluntarily enroll their farm into a 10-year preservation district before they can sell an easement.

The Foundation’s Board of Trustees includes representatives from agriculture and state agencies. Trustees are: Bob Garey, chairman; Bill Vanderwende, vice-chairman; L. Allen Messick Jr., treasurer; William H. “Chip” Narvel Jr., secretary; Secretary of Agriculture Michael Scuse; State Treasurer Ken Simpler; Secretary of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Shawn Garvin; Peter Martin; Theodore P. Bobola Jr.; Robert Emerson; and Janice Truitt.

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