CENTREVILLE — The Queen Anne’s County Commissioners unanimously approved a total of $750,000 to be used for a Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation program Tuesday, Jan. 22, in efforts to conserve county farmland.
The sum is comprised of $110,746 from the Agricultural Transfer Tax retained by the county and the MALPF program project fund with an additional $639,254 committed from the General Fund. The MALPF will match funds at a ratio of two dollars for every one dollar offered by the county.
Queen Anne’s County stands to see a return of $1.5 million earmarked for preserving farmland. Along with additional state monies already in the county budget, that total increases to $3.1 million which could help conserve an estimated six farms and nearly 1,000 acres.
“When a piece of property is taken out of agriculture production and transferred to residential use, there’s a 5 percent Agricultural Transfer Tax (levied),” said Donna K. Landis-Smith of the Queen Anne’s County Soil Conservation District. “The matching funds program is an opportunity the county has participated in for the last 17 years, and the state has given us the opportunity to match two for one. That doesn’t include the initial allocation.”
According to an official memorandum by Landis-Smith, the county “is certified which means 80 percent of all Agricultural Transfer Tax collected is retained and 20 percent is remitted to the state of Maryland. The Agricultural Transfer Tax is used for easement acquisitions.”
Since 2001, the county has participated in the matching funds program with the initial allocation from the state providing approximately $880,000 to each county for easement acquisition.
A 2012 census of agriculture noted that Queen Anne’s County had 530 farms, or 156,941 acres dedicated to farmland. Government payments totaled $4,242,000 with each individual property averaging $10,877 in subsidies.
“This is tremendous news,” said Jay Falstad, Queen Anne’s Conservation Association’s executive director. “QACA applauds the Queen Anne’s County Commissioners for taking this important step in further securing the county’s agricultural heritage.”
The average size of a property, according to the census data, was 296 acres. That represented a market value of products sold as $166,855,000.
In terms of land usage, 82.8 percent of land was cropland, 11.8 percent was woodland and 5.4 percent was other uses.
Not surprisingly, Queen Anne’s County ranks first in grain production in the entire state of Maryland.
“Maintaining that notable distinction is something everyone in Queen Anne’s County can be proud of, so working to preserve farmland should continue to be a high priority for the future,” said Falstad.
During the combined fiscal years of 2017 and 2018, $107,210 was collected from the Agricultural Transfer Tax with a matching funds commitment of $499,260. The total initial allocation was then $2,156,172. The total settled amount, including second-round funding, totaled $3,853,372.
Over $23 million of county and state funds have been dedicated toward the preservation of 5,300 acres in the county, making Queen Anne’s County land preservation programs arguably one of the most successful in the state.
The completed application to the MALPF program is due Feb. 1 with applications for the second round of funding due in August.