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Maryland Farmland Protection Groups Seek Funding

May 24

Members of the St. Mary's County, Maryland Board of Agriculture, Seafood, and Forestry are requesting $5 million from county commissioners to fund agricultural conservation programs aimed at avoiding the development of vital cropland.

The county organization is attempting to fulfill a commitment made in the 1990s to protect 60,000 acres over the next 20 years. Local agricultural activists estimate that the county is 43,000 acres short of its target. They claim that the $5 million is required to meet the county's previous commitment. The current farmland preservation allocation is $1.5 million.

Activists claim that the county has ample funds to aid in the preservation of agriculture. St. Mary's County has a $30 million surplus from 2011. County authorities, on the other hand, argue that the money should go toward retiree benefits, capital projects, and infrastructure improvements.

Farmland preservation is a big concern in Maryland, as well as many other states with growing urban and suburban areas. California and New Jersey, for example, invest major public funds in public farmland preservation projects. Agricultural activists say that, despite the fact that national land values are high, owing in part to rising crop values, now is an important time to safeguard farms. Many retiring farmers may sell their land to the highest bidder, which is generally suburban developers looking to expand their real estate projects.

Farmland preservation contributes to stable agricultural productivity. So this leaves room for a variety of opinions. However, if these groups don't get the $5 million, it could put a serious dent in their efforts to protect farmland in St. Mary's County. These farmers' best bet on protection is to get an agricultural financing program in place to purchase the development rights to their land. There are many creative ways to preserve farmland, but it takes committed people and resources to make it happen.