CENTREVILLE — “Last night our County Commissioners stepped up to the plate and hit a home run for farming in Maryland’s number one agricultural county,” said Jay Falstad, executive director of Queen Anne’s Conservation Association , the Eastern Shore’s oldest conservation organization.
Falstad was pointing to the June 9 enactment by the Queen Anne’s County Commissioners of a “County Farmland Preservation Fund” to be financed by tax revenues from large-scale solar power projects in the county. The fund will make up to $1 million per year available to enhance participation by county farmers in the programs of the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation.
Commission President Jim Moran, author of the ordinance creating the fund, led the effort for its adoption by reiterating that since big solar energy projects were taking prime farmland out of production, it was only appropriate that the tax revenue from solar should be used to keep prime farmland in production. Adoption of Moran’s ordinance was moved by Commissioner Jack Wilson (District 1), and it passed by a 4-0 vote, with one abstention.
Under MALPF programs, which the new fund will support, landowners submit a bid to the state to preserve their farms, and the county commits matching funds in order to receive additional state funding. In 2019, the Queen Anne’s County Commissioners committed $750,000 of county matching monies, enabling the preservation of 1,581 acres of prime farmland.
“Through thick and thin for nearly 40 years,” said Falstad, “the County, and in particular Donna Landis-Smith, MALPF program administrator with the County Soil Conservation Service, have labored to preserve over 30,000 acres of our farmland under MALPF. Now, with the creation of this permanent, MALPF-dedicated fund, the commissioners have put Queen Anne’s County on an accelerated track to preserve many more thousands of acres of farmlands for many years into the future.
“QACA is proud to have supported Commissioner Moran’s effort from the outset. Farming is the number one business of Queen Anne’s County. With our uniquely productive soils and our proximity to major markets along the Eastern seaboard, it is not too much to say that we have a special responsibility to preserve and protect our agricultural infrastructure — not just for ourselves but for the good of the nation. Last night was a good night for a good cause.”