A recent report puts Maryland among the national leaders in agricultural land preservation, ranked 3rd among all states. The report highlights the benefits of state programs designed to stave development of agricultural property – highlighting their importance during difficult budget times.
The Daily Record today profiles a report from the American Farmland Trust, which evaluates programs and protected acreage in each state. From their coverage:
Maryland has protection in place for 18 percent of its farmland, behind only New Jersey, with 27 percent, and Delaware, with 21 percent, the American Farmland Trust said.
The trust lists two Maryland programs, the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation, with 285,701 acres protected, and the Rural Legacy Program, with 76,146 acres.
The first was established in 1977 and is part of the Maryland Department of Agriculture. It buys agricultural preservation easements that restrict development on prime farmland and woodland.
The Rural Legacy Program falls under the Department of Natural Resources and was created to discourage sprawl. It offers farmers and landowners an alternative to developing or subdividing their land by allowing them to sell or donate their development rights while retaining ownership.
During the session ahead, the General Assembly will have cause to debate the value of these programs, as part of the FY 2015 budget plan includes redirection of $69 million in state transfer tax revenues to the general fund. The transfer tax is the funding source for both the Rural Legacy and Agricultural Land preservation programs in Maryland.