Virginia farmland shrinking

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 22, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Virginia farmland real estate values have increased an average of 5.6 percent from a year ago, according to new survey findings from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

That’s higher than the national increase in farmland real estate values of 5 percent from last year.

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This is the 16th consecutive year farmland values increased nationwide.

As of Jan. 1, the national average farmland value per acre was $1,270. In Virginia, that value came in at $2,630. In 1999, Virginia farmland values averaged $2,040 per acre.

&uot;As the report states, development pressures in certain parts of the country are contributing to a rapid increase in rural real estate values,&uot; said Rachel Morris, legislative specialist for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.

&uot;Even though the value of their property is quickly increasing, this is not necessarily good news to farmers,&uot; she explained. &uot;Most producers are simply seeing their tax burden grow while farming is less profitable than it was even 10 years ago.&uot;

Farm Bureau has been pushing for reforms in the state’s tax code that would reduce the dependence of local governments on real estate tax collections.

The Virginia General Assembly and Gov. Mark Warner have been discussing possible reforms in the state’s tax code for the past year.

&uot;We are no longer an agrarian society,&uot; Morris said. &uot;Our economy is more service-based. Modifying our tax code to reflect this cultural change would be fairer to everyone in our society and help keep our remaining farmers on their land.&uot;

According to the American Farmland Trust, Virginia has been losing agricultural land at a high rate over the past five years.

In a study published last year, AFT said 105,000 acres of farmland was converted to houses and other development between 1992 and 1997, putting the Old Dominion in the top 20 states in terms of farmland lost.

In 2001, Virginia had 8.7 million acres of farmland, compared to 11.4 million acres of farmland in 1970.