State Recertifies Cecil County’s Agricultural Land Preservation Program

The Maryland Department of Planning (MDP) and the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation (MALPF) this week recertified Cecil County’s agricultural land preservation program through June 30, 2021.

According to a press release:

MDP and MALPF jointly administer the Program for the Certification of County Agricultural Land Preservation Programs (the “Certification Program”). Created by the Maryland General Assembly in 1990, the Certification Program lets counties keep more locally generated agricultural land transfer tax in exchange for creating effective local land preservation programs and continually evaluating and improving them.

Certified counties are allowed to retain 75% of the Agricultural Transfer Tax revenue. The increase in a county’s share of Agriculture Transfer Tax helps support its agricultural land preservation program. All retained funds must be spent or encumbered for land preservation purposes or the funds revert to the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Fund. Retained funds can be used to purchase land preservation easements through a local program or a State program, used in the MALPF’s Matching Funds Program, applied to service past debt accrued through land preservation activities, and/or used to help pay the administrative expenses for the county’s land preservation activities.

Certification allows counties to create a preservation program that best meets local goals and needs. In combination with easement purchases, counties use other preservation tools such as agricultural zoning, transfer of development rights (TDRs), right-to-farm policies, and the establishment of agriculture as the best use of designated land. Other important aspects of local programs include defined areas for preservation and established acreage goals. In addition to the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation program, certified counties have typically also preserved land through private land trusts, Maryland Environmental Trust (MET), and the Rural Legacy Program among other organizations and programs.

Preserving agricultural lands has been a continuing and on-going goal of Cecil County since its first Master Development Plan was adopted in August 1962. Cecil has been a certified county since 1996, and during the last five years the County’s preserved-to-developed ratio was nearly 4.5 to 1. Preservation activities during this period include the successful purchases of development rights, collaboration with local land trusts, promotion of traditional and non-traditional agricultural activities and business, and managing land use in the County’s Priority Preservation Areas.

“Land preservation efforts are a key component in ensuring that Cecil County’s rural areas remain rural, and for the agricultural entities to remain viable and economically productive,” stated County Executive Alan McCarthy.

Read the full press release for more information.