HARRINGTON — Farm equity and preservation were the focus of Governor’s Day at the Delaware State Fair on Thursday.
Gov. John Carney signed Senate Bill 163, which he said will closely align specific land uses with the U.S. Census Bureau’s definition of a farm. This should improve equity because the previous definition of a farm in Delaware excluded people farming 10 acres or less, according to the governor.
“It will ensure a more equitable tax treatment of farms,” Gov. Carney said. “It goes to this objective of making farming a viable operation here.”
Sen. Dave Lawson, R-Marydel, was the primary sponsor of the bill and was also on hand for the signing.
“This here is the federal recognition, or definition, of a farm and we finally have it here in Delaware,” Sen. Lawson said.
Gov. Carney also announced an additional 3,827 acres on 54 farms have been permanently preserved. The preservation efforts went to three farms in New Castle County, 26 in Kent County and 23 in Sussex County. Two easements for forestland preservation were also included.
“The Department of Agriculture has a big year ahead with $20 million allocated to preserve Delaware farms from the ground up,” Gov. Carney said. “With this year’s average discount rate at 44%, there is no better time for farmers to consider preserving their farms for future generations.”
Delaware farmers interested in preserving their farms should be sure they meet the following eligibility requirements, according to the Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation:
• Property must be zoned for agriculture and not subject to any major subdivision plan.
• The property meets the minimum Land Evaluation and Site Assessment 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 three 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 Oct. 31. For more information, visit de.gov/aglands.