Although the program, if approved, would be implemented statewide, Unger said it is vital for the rapidly growing Eastern Panhandle.
Many farmers in the area are committed to preserving farmland, but selling land for development is a lucrative alternative some growers find hard to pass up, said Unger.
"We need to protect family farming," Unger said.
In Berkeley County, the amount of land dedicated to farming dropped by 807 acres between 1992 and 1997, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. During the same time period, Jefferson County lost 1,290 acres of farmland.
The proposal comes on the heels of this week's release of a Sierra Club study that ranked West Virginia last among the 50 states for its efforts to ease urban sprawl. Neighboring Maryland was ranked first.
States were graded in various areas, including their attempts to buy land around cities, improve mass transit and limit development of green spaces.
The farmland protection program being considered for West Virginia is already in place in 22 other states, including Maryland and Pennsylvania, said Fred Gold Butler, a Berkeley County dairy farmer and president of the Berkeley County Farm Bureau.
"It's OK. It's still in its infancy," said Butler, who said he supports the idea.
"Anything helps," said Paul Rosa, executive director of the Harpers Ferry Conservancy, which has been leading an effort to expand Harpers Ferry National Historical Park by up to 1,200 acres.
Although much of the money for farmland protection could come from the federal government, the West Virginia Legislature would have to authorize legislation to set up a foundation for the program, Unger said.
Del. Dale Manuel, D-Jefferson, said the Legislature typically has supported programs that help the state's agriculture business.
"I think they would be supportive of this one as well," said Manuel.
Congress has set aside $35 million to acquire protective easements for farmland, but there has been discussion of raising that amount to about $55 million, said Clint Hogbin, of Hedgesville, W.Va., who is a volunteer for the Eastern Panhandle People's Empowerment Coalition.
The coalition, developed by Unger, is a way for citizens to give their input on issues important to them, including farmland protection, drunken driving and school safety, Unger said.