The Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation voted to extended district enrollment to Dec. 31 for agricultural landowners who want to preserve their farms and have the opportunity to submit an application for the upcoming round.

Farms must be enrolled in a preservation district before the landowner can sell an easement.

There are currently 300 farms participating in the 10-year voluntary preservation districts eligible to sell their development rights during Round 23, according to the Delaware AgLands Preservation Program. Those farms comprise an additional 46,000 acres that could be permanently preserved.

“Agriculture is an economic driver here in Delaware. Our family farms contribute $8 billion to the economy and ensuring their sustainability through farmland preservation is important to Delaware’s future,” said Gov. John Carney. “Delaware is fortunate to be within eight hours of most of the major population centers, which creates an opportunity for our family farmers producing fruits, vegetables, chickens and grains to enter the retail market. And with the recent agreement to further develop the Port of Wilmington, we are helping to open future international markets for our farmers.”

Typically, landowners are eligible to submit a bid to sell their farm’s development rights the year after they enroll their farm into a district agreement. District applications for the upcoming year would usually have closed on Dec. 31, 2017; however, the foundation members were concerned that landowners might not have applied by the deadline fearing uncertainty for this year’s budget, so the deadline was extended to Dec.31, 2018.

The foundation approves applications, using an impartial discounted ranking system that maximizes benefits for the taxpayer. The foundation does not own the land, but rather purchases landowners’ development rights and has a permanent agricultural conservation easement placed on the property.

For applications and more, visit agriculture.delaware.gov or call 698-4530.