Seeing a county project that “will have a significant impact and ability for agriculture to prosper,” the Loudoun County Farm Bureau has voted to take the lead in advocating for rural businesses as the county rewrites its comprehensive plan.
“Without the strength of all of you, our membership, our efforts to be the Voice of Loudoun Agriculture might fall on deaf ears,” said Farm Bureau president Chris Van Vlack told the membership during the bureau’s annual meeting Sept. 18.
The county government is in a years-long project, Envision Loudoun, to update its comprehensive plan, with far-reaching impacts for the county’s growth and future. And the process has drawn close scrutiny from conservation and agriculture interests, who worry it’s an opportunity to open up the west to development.
Van Vlack said the county must protect a “critical mass” of agricultural land to keep the rural economy afloat.
“The situation remains critical, as we have seen residential development market pick up again over the past four to five years,” Van Vlack said. “We cannot be complacent in securing a long-term base of land for future generations of agricultural entrepreneurs to take their shot at starting successful Loudoun farms and ag businesses.”
The Loudoun Farm Bureau membership voted to “take a leadership role” to put together policy guidelines representing agriculture in Loudoun.
The local Farm Bureau also voted to support several other possible county programs, such as Supervisor Tony R. Buffington’s (R-Blue Ridge) proposed conservation easement assistance program, which would use county funding to help defray the cost to landowners of putting their land into conservation easement to protect it from development. The Farm Bureau also voted in favor of a transfer of development rights program—in which rural landowners could sell their development rights, providing a source of income and promoting development in designated growth areas—and funding for the county’s existing but inactive purchase of development rights program.
“It bears mentioning that our Virginia neighbors in Clarke, Frederick, Fauquier, Stafford, Spotsylvania, Culpeper, and soon Prince William all utilize some form of Transfer or Purchase of Development Rights Program, along with our northern neighbors in Montgomery and Frederick County, MD,” Van Vlack said. “Currently, Loudoun is leaving matching funds from the Commonwealth on the table for these programs, and it would be exciting to offer our farmers one of the tools our neighboring producers currently enjoy.”
That program would use county and state money to purchase development rights on a piece of property, again to prevent development there.
And the Farm Bureau suggested providing more agriculture-focused education in Loudoun County Public Schools, such as livestock animal sciences and agricultural business courses.