July 09, 2020

USDA to provide funds for farmland protection

BANGOR – The U.S. Department of Agriculture will provide $663,800 through its Farmland Protection Program to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service for farmland preservation in Maine.

The USDA will match funds with state, tribal, local government and local land trusts to protect productive farmland through conservation easements. In Maine, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Maine Department of Agriculture, and the State Planning Office allow state and federal money to be used to buy development rights.

In November 1999, a $50 million bond issue for land acquisition was passed by voters, 10 percent of which is earmarked for farmland projects.

“This award is a tremendous step forward for Maine’s partnership efforts to secure Maine’s most important farmlands for the future,” Mark DesMeules, director of the Land for Maine’s Future Program, said. “It will allow us to move ahead on many priority farmland protection proposals that otherwise wouldn’t happen.”

Under the program, landowners agree to limit use of their land for non-agricultural purposes and have pending offers for acquisition of agricultural conservation easements. To qualify, farmland must:

Be included in a pending offer from a non-governmental organization, state, tribe or local farmland protection program;

. Be privately owned;

. Have a conservation plan;

. Be large enough to sustain agricultural production;

. Be accessible to markets for produce;

. Have adequate infrastructure and agricultural support services; and

. Have surrounding parcels of land that can support long-term agricultural production.

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