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190 acres of Washington County farmland approved for preservation

September 26, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Two Washington County farms totaling 190 acres have been approved for Maryland's agricultural preservation program.

The Maryland Board of Public Works announced Thursday that the state will spend $1.07 million to buy two easements on farms in Washington County as part of the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Program.

The preservation program is used to buy easements on Maryland farms. The easements prevent those farms from being developed into perpetuity.

Washington County Land Preservation Administrator Eric Seifarth would not identify the Washington County farms Thursday.

"We generally don't give out that information until they settle on the purchase," Seifarth said.

He said one of the farms is west of Hagerstown and the other is northeast of Hagerstown.

The Board of Public Works announced Thursday that it has approved the purchase of 27 easements across the state. The easements, which were purchased with state and local funds, totaled just more than $23.6 million.

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Seifarth said Thursday's announcement was the first round of easement purchases. He said there likely will be two or three more purchases in 2008.

In total, just less than $4.2 million will be spent on easements in Washington County this year, Seifarth said.

Of that amount, $1.34 million is county funding, Seifarth said.

In 2007, $4.8 million worth of easements were purchased in Washington County.

Seifarth said he expects the amount to continue to drop in 2009.

The state has preserved 272,158 acres under the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Program, according to a press release from the Maryland Department of Agriculture.

Farms qualify for easements through a ranking system.

The Washington County Commissioners last month voted to change that ranking system, which heavily favored farms that were adjacent to existing easement-protected farms.

The changes, which will allow more farms to compete for state easements, will take effect next year, Seifarth said.

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