Delaware Aglands Program Ranks Second in the United States for Preserving Farmland

Delaware announces 24th consecutive round of easement selections for Aglands Program

DOVER, Del.  — Delaware announced its 24th consecutive round of easement selections by the Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation. With the preservation of another 5,500 acres, Delaware has permanently preserved more than 139,000 acres of farmland for future generations.

In a recent report by the American Farmland Trust, Delaware was recognized as having one of the most effective farmland protection programs in the country, ranked second only to New Jersey.

“Our state’s Aglands Preservation Program has been critical to keeping Delaware farms in production,” said Governor Carney. “I think we can all agree through the pandemic, we learned how important family farmers are to ensuring food including fruits and vegetables, dairy products, and meat are readily available. Preserving farmland is not just about passing a farm down to the next generation, it’s about making sure future generations have food grown locally available to feed their families.”

In this round of easement selections, there were four farms in New Castle County, 12 farms in Kent County, and 47 farms in Sussex County preserved. A total of 26 percent of Delaware’s farmland has been successfully preserved through Delaware’s Aglands Preservation Program.

“With today’s announcement, 5,500 acres have been permanently preserved, including 63 farms through the AgLands Preservation Program and two forested parcels through the Forestland Preservation Program. The success of this program has been built off partnerships between landowners, the Delaware Department of Agriculture, members of the General Assembly, county governments, and federal agencies,” said Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse.  “The purchase of this year’s easements would not have been possible 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, New Castle County Council, Kent County Levy Court, and Sussex County Council.”

Since the beginning of the program, landowners have donated, on average, 59 percent of their development rights value – that is they received 41 cents on the dollar of their farm’s development rights value to preserve their farm. The average discount (donation) for Round 24 is 63 percent.

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 more than 139,000 acres in permanent easements, Delaware’s Aglands Preservation Program has over 36,000 acres of land enrolled in farmland preservation districts.

“Delaware NRCS is proud to preserve and protect the state’s productive farmland and the long-term viability of our food supply,” said Kasey Taylor, NRCS State Conservationist. “Working with our partners, we are able to place these critical easements on the land, ensuring that we preserve the agricultural legacy and economy that is so beneficial to our state.”

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.

“This makes three out of my four years as County Executive where we have partnered with the state program,” said County Executive Meyer. “Preserving agricultural land is important for New Castle County – as a matter of fact I worked with our county council and created a land preservation task force last August to look at both agricultural land preservation and open space preservation with outcomes expected this September, as well as how New Castle County can make better use of the state’s agricultural land preservation program.”

Delaware’s statewide program made its first round of easement purchases in 1996 and has since preserved 22 percent of New Castle County farmland, 39 percent of Kent County farmland and 19 percent of Sussex County farmland.

“Agriculture is the number one industry in Central Delaware and a large part of the culture and identity of Kent County”, said Kent County Administrator Mike Petit de Mange.  “The Aglands Preservation Program has been a huge success in preserving thousands of acres of working land in our County and we are very pleased to financially participate once again with the State of Delaware in Round 24 to preserve an additional 886 Acres this year.”

“Sussex County is proud to again support the Delaware Aglands Program in preserving working farms that strengthen our economy and ensure an important part of our heritage continues,” Sussex County Administrator Todd F. Lawson said. “Ag faces a tremendous amount of pressure in the 21st century, be it economic, environmental, or, as the recent pandemic has illustrated, the exceptional. Now more than ever it is imperative for America to have a strong agricultural sector, and by working with our partners at the state and federal level, we’ll continue to have that right here in Sussex County.”

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.

Click here for more information on the Aglands Preservation Program.

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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