After a period of inactivity, the Voluntary Agricultural District has been reestablished with a newly appointed board of five individuals from around the county who are actively involved in some sort of agriculture. At last week's meeting of county commissioners, Mike Breedlove of the Macon County Soil and Water Conservation District presented a list of five new potential board members to the commissioners for approval.
In 1997, an ordinance was adopted by the county to “encourage the voluntary preservation and protection of farmland from non-farm development, recognizing the importance of agriculture to the economic and cultural life of this county.”
To be considered for the program, farmland, forestland and horticultural land must meet the following criteria: The land must be part of the present- use value taxation program or be determined eligible for present use value; and the land must be managed in accordance with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service guidelines with respect to highly erodible lands.
The land must be subject to a conservation agreement between the landowner and the county that prohibits non-farm use or development for a period of at least 10 years.
Some of the benefits of program participation include:
• Increased protection from nuisance lawsuits if notice is provided through computerized county land record systems;
• Public hearings for proposed condemnation of enrolled lands;
• Greater public awareness of the local agricultural community and increased pride in its way of life.
Originally called Farmland Preservation, the Voluntary Agricultural District has been inactive for several years. Breedlove noted that his office has been working with the Planning Department for some time to revitalize the program. He added that the individuals on the list he presented for approval were all people who are enthusiastic about agriculture in the county.
“We think they would make a very informed and active board,” he said.
The commissioners unanimously approved the list. The five members of the new board are Kathy Tinsley, Tony Ashe, Pam Bell, Clint James, and Ben Ledford.
For more information about the Voluntary Agricultural District program, contact the Macon County Soil and Water Conservation District at (828)524-3311 (ext. 3) or the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service at (828)349-2046.