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Preserving farmland is often a dream for many and can often be included in generational plans but financial considerations and other obstacles may make that dream difficult, if not near impossible.

That might be changing, according to New Castle County Farm Bureau President Stewart Ramsey. To help get the word out, the Delaware Farm Bureau, Delaware Cooperative Extension and Delaware Department of Agriculture teamed up and organized a program to help explain the agland preservation program as it exists in Delaware and related tax implications.

Their event was held in New Castle County April 13 at Townsend Fire Hall; the groups hope to have future meetings in Kent and Sussex County, as well. 

“Folks really wanted to understand the program,” Ramsey said, adding that the meeting was well attended. “Everyone who came to the meeting left with more questions than they had when we started and that’s a good thing.”

Ramsey said the program was meant as a quick overview or re-introduction of the preservation program in hopes of encouraging farmers to reach out for more information on their own. 

“Even I learned things I didn’t know yet. Since the meeting, I know a few farmers have followed up to inquire about the idea that real estate transfer tax isn’t applicable to preserved land, for example,” he added. 

Jimmy Kroom, Administrator for Department Management at the Delaware Department of Agriculture, was on hand during the meeting to discuss that tax and help attendees understand the historic workings of the state agland preservation program. He matched that with recent adjustments. 

He also dove into the young farmer program and discussed how that could help provide zero interest funds for a portion of new farm purchases for qualifying individuals. 

Tracy Garofalo, an accountant with nearly two decade experience helping farmers navigate preservation, easement, and other tax issues in the states of Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, helped the group further understand possible tax implications with agland preservation. 

She helped attendees understand how a “Like-Kind-Exchange” can work to guard against excessive tax burden and noted that there are many underlying rules and timing issues. She also discussed how charitable contributions could connect to agland preservation and how the sale of development rights, as is required by the agland preservation program, is not considered farm income.

But the biggest change to the agland preservation program in Delaware, Ramsey said, might be additional funds that have been added to the program in recent years. 

“Farmers need to be more and more aware of that because even if they thought they understood how the program was working three years ago, now there’s more money available and we need more farms to be looking into that program,” he said. “When I see that there’s money at the state and county levels left unused, then I’m going to work hard to make that not happen in the future. A dollar that is not spent is a dollar that is not preserving farmland and I don’t want that.”

Farmers in Kent and Sussex counties can express interest in attending a similar program located near them by sending a note to Karen Adams at adams@udel.edu or by phone at 302-856-2585 ext 540.

For more information on membership with the Delaware Farm Bureau, visit www.defb.org.

Post Author: Jenn Antonik

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