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Grant to protect 400 acres of W.Va. farmland

July 12, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded $1.4 million to preserve more than 400 acres of farmland in Berkeley County.

The grant will be matched by the county with real estate transfer tax revenue and provide for easements on 350 acres near Inwood, W.Va., and on a 100-acre farm in the Scrabble-Whitings Neck area, according to Clint Hogbin, chairman of the Berkeley County Farmland Protection Board.

Both easements were approved Thursday by county commissioners and will increase the total farmland protected from development in Berkeley County to nearly 3,000 acres, Hogbin said.

Bill Butler owns the 350 acres being preserved, and Christine Tabler owns the 100-acre farm, Hogbin said.

Butler's active cattle and hay farm and orchards have a stream that travels through it and a large spring, Hogbin said.

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Tabler's farm, which was being used to produce mostly hay, has sinkholes on the property.

"The protection of both of these farms are significant from the groundwater perspective," Hogbin said.

For Lavonne Paden, the county farmland protection program's outgoing executive director, protecting the 350-acre tract before she leaves for a state-level program job this fall was very exciting.

Paden found herself "jumping around" for a little bit after reading an e-mail notifying her of the $1.4 million grant.

Berkeley County's share of federal money distributed in West Virginia was particularly large because only a few properties statewide were qualified to receive it, Paden said. Farmland programs in Jefferson and Hampshire counties split the remainder of the federal agency's $1.7 million allocation to the state, Paden said.

The West Virginia counties benefited from the fact that the USDA required the latest round of funding only be earmarked for applications from 2007 lists, Paden said. That rule came about because federal lawmakers were late in passing the Farm Bill, Paden said.

As a result, West Virginia netted conservation money that normally would have gone to three or four other states, but those states didn't have any eligible acreage or had used their local matching funds, Paden said.

"Who knows if that ever will happen again," Paden said.

As she prepares to lead the West Virginia Agricultural Land Protection Authority on a full-time basis, Paden said the Berkeley County program is in a good position and is receiving a lot of applications for conservation easements.




ยทMore information about the county and state farmland protection programs is available on the Internet at www.wvfarmlandprotection.org

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