Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 3.2. Agriculture, Animal Care, and Food
Subtitle I. General Provisions; Protection and Promotion of Agriculture
Chapter 2. Preservation of Farm and Forest Lands
12/7/2022

Chapter 2. Preservation of Farm and Forest Lands.

Article 1. Office of Farmland Preservation.

§ 3.2-200. Agricultural Vitality Program continued as Office of Farmland Preservation.

The Agricultural Vitality Program within the Department is continued and hereafter shall be known as the Office of Farmland Preservation.

2001, c. 521, § 3.1-18.9; 2008, c. 860.

§ 3.2-201. Powers and duties of Office of Farmland Preservation.

A. The Office of Farmland Preservation shall have the following powers and duties:

1. To develop, in cooperation with the Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity, the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, the American Farmland Trust, the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, the Virginia Association of Counties, and the Virginia Cooperative Extension: (i) model policies and practices that may be used as a guide to establish local purchase of development rights programs; (ii) criteria for the certification of local purchase of development rights programs as eligible to receive grants, loans or other funds from public sources; and (iii) methods and sources of revenue for allocating funds to localities to purchase agricultural conservation easements;

2. To create programs to educate the public about the importance of farmland preservation to the quality of life in the Commonwealth;

3. To provide technical, professional, and other assistance to farmers on matters related to farmland preservation;

4. To provide technical, professional, and other assistance to local governments interested in developing additional farmland preservation policies and programs. Such policies and programs shall include (i) use value assessment and taxation pursuant to §§ 58.1-3230 and 58.1-3231; (ii) transfer of development rights pursuant to Article 7.1 (§ 15.2-2316.1 et seq.) of Chapter 22 of Title 15.2; (iii) agricultural and forestal districts pursuant to Chapter 43 (§ 15.2-4300 et seq.) of Title 15.2; and (iv) establishment of local lease of development rights; and

5. To administer the Virginia Farm Link program established pursuant to § 3.2-202.

B. State grants shall be distributed to local purchase of development rights programs under policies, procedures, and guidelines developed by the Office of Farmland Preservation. In general, for each $1 in grant moneys awarded by the Office, the applicable local purchase of development rights program of the county or city shall be required to provide a $1 match. However, as part of these policies, procedures, and guidelines developed by the Office, the Office shall include incentives that recognize and encourage counties and cities participating in use value taxation pursuant to Article 4 (§ 58.1-3229 et seq.) of Chapter 32 of Title 58.1.

C. There is hereby created in the state treasury a special nonreverting fund to be known as the Virginia Farmland Preservation Fund, hereafter referred to as "the Fund." The Fund shall be established on the books of the Comptroller. The Fund shall consist of all moneys appropriated to it by the General Assembly and such moneys as may be made available from any other source, public or private. All moneys shall be paid into the state treasury and credited to the Fund. Interest earned on moneys in the Fund shall remain in the Fund and be credited to it. Any moneys remaining in the Fund, including interest thereon, at the end of each fiscal year shall not revert to the general fund but shall remain in the Fund. Moneys in the Fund shall be used solely for the purposes of carrying out the provisions of this chapter. Expenditures and disbursements from the Fund shall be made by the State Treasurer on warrants issued by the Comptroller upon written request signed by the Commissioner.

2001, c. 521, § 3.1-18.10; 2008, cc. 530, 860; 2009, c. 389; 2011, cc. 95, 160; 2013, c. 482.

§ 3.2-202. Virginia Farm Link program.

There is hereby created the Virginia Farm Link program to provide assistance to retiring farmers and individuals seeking to become active farmers in the transition of farm businesses and properties from retiring farmers to active farmers. Such assistance shall include: (i) assistance in the preparation of business plans for the transition of business interests; (ii) assistance in the facilitation of transfers of existing properties and agricultural operations to interested buyers; (iii) information on innovative farming methods and techniques; and (iv) research assistance on agricultural, financial, marketing, and other matters.

2001, c. 521, § 3.1-18.11; 2008, c. 860.

§ 3.2-203. Reporting requirements.

The Commissioner shall submit a written report on the operation of the Office of Farmland Preservation by December 1 of each year to the chairmen of the House Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources and the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources. The provisions of this chapter shall not preclude local purchase of development rights programs established pursuant to the Open-Space Land Act (§ 10.1-1700 et seq.) from being eligible to receive grants, loans, or other funds from public sources.

2001, c. 521, § 3.1-18.12; 2008, c. 860.

Article 2. Protection of Farm and Forest Lands.

§ 3.2-204. Review of capital projects.

In preparing its report on each major state project, as required in Article 2 (§ 10.1-1188 et seq.) of Chapter 11.1 of Title 10.1, each state agency shall demonstrate that it has considered the impact that project would have on farm and forest lands as required in § 3.2-205, and has adequately considered alternatives and mitigating measures. The Department of Environmental Quality, in conducting its review of each major state project, shall ensure that such consideration has been demonstrated and shall incorporate its evaluation of the effects that project would have on farm and forest lands in its comments to the Governor. The procedures for review of highway and road construction projects established in accordance with subsection B of § 10.1-1188 shall include provisions requiring that the factors listed in § 3.2-205 are considered as part of the review of each project.

1981, c. 635, § 3.1-18.8; 1982, c. 417; 2000, cc. 22, 778; 2008, c. 860.

§ 3.2-205. Characteristics to be considered in evaluating impacts on farm and forest lands.

A. In preparing environmental impact reports in accordance with § 3.2-204, state agencies shall consider the impact of the major state project on all farm and forest lands that:

1. Have soil classified as capability class I, II, III, or IV;

2. Have an exceptional combination of physical characteristics for the production of food, feed, fiber, forest products, forage, oilseed, and other agricultural crops with minimum inputs of fuel, fertilizer, pesticides, and labor, and without intolerable soil erosion;

3. Are valuable for production of specific high-value food and fiber crops, such as fruits, vegetables, and nursery crops and have a special combination of soil quality, location, growing season, and moisture supply needed to economically produce sustained high quality or high yields of such crops when treated and managed according to acceptable farming methods;

4. Are of statewide or local importance for the production of food, feed, fiber, forest products, forage, or oilseed crops;

5. Have been recognized under a state program such as the Clean Water Farm Award or the Century Farm Program;

6. Are part of an agricultural or forestal district or are participating in a use value assessment and taxation program for real estate devoted to agricultural, horticultural, or forest use in accordance with the provisions of Article 4 (§ 58.1-3229 et seq.) of Chapter 32 of Title 58.1; or

7. Make a significant contribution to the local economy or the rural character of the area where the land is located.

B. The governing body of each locality, with the cooperation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, may designate the important farmlands within its jurisdiction. In designating important farmlands the governing body shall demonstrate that adequate provision has been made for nonagricultural uses within its jurisdiction.

C. As used in this chapter, "farmland" includes all land defined as follows:

"Important farmland," other than prime or unique farmland, is land that is of statewide or local importance for the production of food, feed, fiber, forage, nursery, oilseed, or other agricultural crops, as determined by the appropriate state agency or local government agency, and that the U.S. Department of Agriculture determines should be considered as farmland for the purposes of this chapter;

"Prime farmland" is land that has the best combination of physical and chemical characteristics for producing food, feed, fiber, forage, oilseed, nursery, and other agricultural crops with minimum inputs of fuel, fertilizer, pesticides, and labor, and without intolerable soil erosion. Prime farmland includes land that possesses the above characteristics but is being used currently to produce livestock and timber. It does not include land already in or committed to urban development or water storage; and

"Unique farmland" is land other than prime farmland that is used for production of specific high-value food and fiber crops, as determined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It has the special combination of soil quality, location, growing season, and moisture supply needed to economically produce sustained high quality or high yields of specific crops when treated and managed according to acceptable farming methods.

1981, c. 635, § 3.1-18.5; 1982, c. 417; 2000, cc. 22, 778; 2003, c. 384; 2008, c. 860.

§ 3.2-206. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 2017, c. 5, cl. 2.