Department of Agriculture: Land Use Planning & Preservation

Farmland Preservation Program



Farmland Preservation in Delaware

The Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Program was formed with the adoption of House Bill 200 in July, 1991. It is the only official program that protects land for agricultural purposes. There are no such programs at the local level. Also, there are very few land use controls at the state or local levels that effectively preserve, or attempt to preserve agricultural land - they attempt to "steer" or slow growth at best.

Participation in the program is voluntary and has two components. First, landowners join the program by creating an Agricultural Preservation District. An Agricultural Preservation District contains at least 200 contiguous acres that are devoted to agricultural and related uses. Any lands less than 200 usable (and contiguous) acres within three miles of an established district can be enrolled into the program as a District Expansion.

Landowners who place their lands into Agricultural Preservation Districts agree to not develop their lands for at least 10 years, devoting the land only to agriculture and related uses. In return, the owners receive tax benefits, right-to-farm protection, and an opportunity to sell a preservation easement to the state that keeps the land free from development permanently.

There are now 129,163 acres in 519 Agricultural Preservation Districts and District expansions in Delaware. Out of the 129,163 acres currently in agricultural preservation districts, 307 properties encompassing approximately 64,830 acres have been permanently protected through the purchase of preservation easements for $67.4 Million (see charts for breakdown by county).

High quality soils, significant agricultural infrastructure, historical and environmental significance are all factors that have been considered in the selection of farms for permanent preservation. Many of these farms are contiguous to already protected land and complement the State's open space preservation efforts by creating natural buffers between development and public open space. Thus far, the program has been successful in striking a balance between two important goals:

  1. preserving a critical mass of crop land, forest land, and open space to sustain Delaware's number one industry and quality of life, and
  2. providing landowners an opportunity to preserve their land in the face of increasing development pressures and decreasing commodity values.

With landowners volunteering to sell preservation easements at an average of 51 percent below appraised value, the Foundation estimates that $50 Million may purchase easements on all of the farms of landowners currently seeking permanent preservation of their land. This is unheard of anywhere in the nation for a program of this nature. Yet, Delaware is in a position to accomplish this amazing feat! Continued funding of the Program increases the desire for landowners to place their land into agricultural preservation districts in favor of rezoning or subdividing for non-agricultural purposes. This activity, combined with the current permanent preservation of Delaware's farms at a modest cost of $1,039 per acre, is a true bargain for the State's taxpayers of today and a wise investment for the generations to come.

Delaware Agricultural Preservation Districts (Approved)

County
# Districts
Total Acres
Percentage
Kent
252
67,566
52%
New Castle
62
16,105
13%
Sussex
205
45,492
35%
Delaware
519
129,163
100%

Delaware Farms Permanently Permanently Protected

County
# Farms
Total Acres
Total $ Spent
Kent
156
35,841
$31,406,486
New Castle
42
8,120
$12,610,299
Sussex
109
20,869
$23,363,309
Delaware
307
64,830
$67,380,094

Purchase of Development Rights by Rounds

PDR Round
# Farms
Total Acres
Total $ Spent
Cost Per Acre
1
31
8,670
$11,253,556
$1,298
2
35
7,44
$6,669,959
$896
3
31
7,309
$7,237,317
$990
4
55
12,412
$13,728,452
$1,106
5
85
17,874
$16,357,770
$915
6
36
6,834
$5,882,616
$860
7
34
4,287
$6,250,425
$1,458
Total
307
64,830
$67,380,094
$1,039

There are currently 107 potential PDR applications for Round 8 totaling 23,972 acres



Last Updated: Monday, 17-Dec-2012 14:53:41 EST
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