Delaware Aglands Permanently Preserves 3,800 Acres; Largest Number of Inland Bays Easements Ever Selected

HARRINGTON, Del. (July 28, 2022) — During a stop at the Delaware Agriculture Education & Commodities Building at the Delaware State Fair, Governor John Carney announced an additional 3,827 acres on 54 farms are now permanently preserved for future generations.

Map of Delaware depicting all the agricultural easements,2022 marks the 26th consecutive year of easement selections by the Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation. In this round, three farms in New Castle County, 26 in Kent County, 23 in Sussex County were preserved, and two easements for forestland preservation.

“Preserving Delaware’s farmland is a priority and Delaware Aglands have helped keep farms in production,” said Governor Carney. “The Department of Agriculture has a big year ahead with $20 million allocated to preserve Delaware farms from the ground up. With this year’s average discount rate at 44%, there is no better time for farmers to consider preserving their farms for future generations. I want to thank members of the General Assembly for seeing the importance of protecting agriculture here in our state.”

Along with the state funding, Delaware’s success in preserving farmland would not be possible without the assistance of many county and federal partners. The Delaware Aglands Preservation Foundation has partnered with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), Sussex County Council, and Kent County Levy Court to purchase easements in this round. New Castle County provided funds this past winter to preserve a New Castle County farm that was not originally selected in Round 25.

“Farmland preservation is not just about preserving Delaware’s number one industry. It’s ensuring our residents have access to Delaware-grown food; that our next generation has a career in agriculture — no matter whether it’s on the farm, working in agribusiness, teaching agriscience to our youth, or developing the latest technology; and the heritage, culture, and beauty of rural Delaware can be enjoyed by residents and visitors alike,” said Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse. “In this round, nine easements in the Inland Bays watershed were selected, encompassing 486 acres. This is the most Inland Bays easements we have selected in one year and the most acres in the last twenty years. This is a big deal to ensure these communities have local farms providing them healthy food into the future.”

Since 1995, Delaware has preserved 6,873 acres of farmland in the Inland Bays watershed, costing $16.75 million. The easements selected in this year’s round have an estimated cost of $1.7 million. The only round with more acres preserved in this area was Round 5, announced in 2000.

“For the second year in a row, we have been able to accept every offer made by landowners to preserve their farms,” said Aglands Administrator Jimmy Kroon. “This is a significant change from several years ago when the process was much more competitive. Combined with increasing appraisals, we are paying more to preserve farmland, and we’re happy farmers are benefitting from that.”

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 and are eligible for permanent preservation the year after they apply. In addition to nearly 147,000 acres in permanent easements, Delaware’s Aglands Preservation Program has more than 34,000 acres of land enrolled in 10-year farmland preservation districts.

County governments can partner with the state program and add county funds to select properties in their areas, leveraging state resources for the most significant impact.

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.

Delaware farmers interested in preserving their farms should be sure they meet the following eligibility requirements:
• Property must be zoned for agriculture and not subject to any major subdivision plan.
• The property meets the minimum Land Evaluation and Site Assessment (LESA) score of 170. LESA is a process that attempts to estimate the farm’s long-term viability based on the farm’s soil productivity and the land use and agriculture infrastructure on and around the farm. Scores range from 0-300. Aglands program staff calculate the LESA score when applications are received.
• The property has to meet the state’s Farmland Assessment Act (10 acres or more which generate at least $1,000 in agricultural sales annually; farms under 10 acres which create at least $10,000 annually in agricultural sales).
• Farms of 200 acres or more constitute an agricultural district.
• Farms under 200 acres can enter the program if they are within 3 miles of an existing agricultural district. With over 1,154 farms already preserved, it is rare that a farm under 200 acres does not meet these criteria.

Entirely forested properties in managed timber production can also enroll in the Forestland Preservation Program, which purchases Forestland Preservation Easements through a similar process as Aglands Preservation.

For new farms interested in preservation, the deadline to apply and be eligible for Round 27 is October 31, 2022. For more information, visit https://de.gov/aglands.

The Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation’s Board of Trustees includes representatives from agriculture and state agencies. Trustees are Mark Collins, chairman; James G. Vanderwende, vice-chairman; Janice Truitt, 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 H. Grier Stayton.

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Delaware Has Preserved 143,000 Acres of Farmland After 25th Round

Round 25 Easement Selection MapDOVER, Del. (July 21, 2021) — Delaware announced its 25th consecutive round of easement selections by the Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation. With the preservation of 3,695 acres, Delaware has permanently preserved more than 143,000 acres of farmland for future generations.

“Delaware’s Aglands Preservation Program has been critical to keeping our farms in production,” said Governor Carney. “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 23 farms in Kent County and 22 farms in Sussex County preserved. The Delaware Aglands Preservation Program has successfully preserved nearly 27 percent of Delaware’s farmland.

“We take pride in having one of the country’s most effective farmland protection programs. With today’s announcement, 3,695 acres have been permanently preserved, including 45 farms through the AgLands Preservation Program and four forested parcels through the Forestland Preservation Program,” said Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse. “There are a lot of partners who play a role in Delaware’s success preserving farmland, from the county level up to federal agencies by providing matching funds.”

“Each easement that is placed on productive agricultural land protects the long-term viability of our food supply by preventing conversion to non-agricultural uses,” said Kasey Taylor, Delaware State Conservationist, Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS). “Coupled with conservation activities, land preservation is vital to improving soil and water quality and enhancing wildlife habitat. NRCS is honored to contribute to this tremendous effort.”

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 25 is 53.57 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 instead 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 143,000 acres in permanent easements, Delaware’s Aglands Preservation Program has over 41,000 acres of land enrolled in farmland preservation districts.

County governments can choose to partner with the state program and add county funds to select properties in their areas, leveraging state resources for a more significant impact.

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.

Kent County Administrator Michael Petit de Mange said, “Levy Court is pleased to once again provide financial assistance toward the preservation of an additional 1,082 acres of valuable farmland in Kent County as part of the Delaware Aglands Preservation Program in Round 25. It’s important for us to preserve and protect agriculture in Kent County since it’s so vital to our local economy, our food supply, and the rural character of our working lands in Central Delaware.”

“Sussex County Council has made it a priority to support the Delaware Aglands Program by providing significant funding to ensure working farms are preserved,” Sussex County Administrator Todd F. Lawson said. “Ag continues to face tremendous pressure in the 21st century, and it is imperative that we take necessary steps — like purchasing these easements — to ensure this vital industry remains productive in our State and our County.”

The Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation Easements are available for viewing through an online dashboard at https://de.gov/agdashboard.

Landowners interested in preserving their farm can contact the Aglands Preservation Program at 302-698-4530 or find information and application forms at agriculture.delaware.gov. The Aglands Preservation Program received $10 million in the state budget on July 1 for selecting easements in Round 26, expected to be announced in late Spring 2022.

The Foundation’s Board of Trustees includes representatives from agriculture and state agencies. Trustees are Mark Collins, chairman; James G. Vanderwende, vice-chairman; Janice Truitt, 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 H. Grier Stayton.

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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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DNREC’s Division of Parks & Recreation acquires two properties expanding Auburn Valley State Park

Yorklyn – DNREC’s Division of Parks & Recreation announced today that it has acquired 86 acres of land in Yorklyn to expand the recently-created Auburn Valley State Park. The preservation of the two parcels, each about 43 acres in size, will enable future expansion of recreational activities at the 452-acre park. The new land acquisition by DNREC will also benefit the Red Clay Creek watershed by protecting important headwaters and lands along a tributary to the creek.

DNREC’s Division of Parks & Recreation acquired the property from the children of the Nancy Reynolds Cooch family. The sale was made possible through a donation from The Nature Conservancy in Delaware and grant funding through Mt. Cuba Center, both ensuring that the land becoming part of park will be preserved in its undeveloped state. The rest of the funds were provided by the Delaware Open Space Program, and secured by DNREC’s Division of Parks & Recreation.

The Open Space Program was created by the Land Protection Act in 1990, with the goal of protecting land for recreation, wildlife habitat, state forests, and lands of historical and cultural importance. Governor John Carney’s 2019 budget provided $10 million in funding for the program, which has protected more than 62,000 acres of land since its inception.

“These new properties will be a wonderful addition to the Auburn Valley State Park,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin. “With the land now permanently protected by DNREC, the environmentally-sensitive Red Clay Creek watershed will also benefit. I thank our conservation partner, The Nature Conservancy in Delaware; the Reynolds Cooch family; and Mt. Cuba Center; whose support made this purchase a reality.”

“The Nature Conservancy in Delaware is honored and humbled to join Mt. Cuba Center and assist DNREC in adding the Reynolds Cooch properties to the Auburn Valley State Park complex,” said Richard Jones, executive director of The Nature Conservancy in Delaware. “Given the conservation legacy established over many years by the Reynolds and Cooch families, it is particularly gratifying to know that this important land will remain protected in perpetuity.”

The new parcels of undeveloped lands comprise a mix of hardwood forest and grasslands, and also include a stream that eventually flows into the Red Clay Creek, an important source of drinking water for New Castle County. One of the new parcels shares a border with the 121-acre Oversee Farm, another part of Auburn Valley State Park acquired with assistance from the Nature Conservancy in Delaware. Protecting an additional 86 acres provides a wildlife migration corridor through privately and publicly owned lands that extend well into Pennsylvania.