ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Calvin Ball pre-filed a bill to acquire an agricultural preservation easement on property which is currently owned by the Dickey family. The approval of the legislation would preserve 127.7 acres of land, adding to the almost 22,900 acres of farmland that is already in the Agricultural Land Preservation Program (ALPP). The overall cost of the easement will be $5.4 million, funded by 25% of the 1% local transfer tax that is dedicated to the ALPP.
Agriculture plays a vital role in Howard County, supporting our economy and our environment. Our farms provide locally grown food, minimize our environmental footprint, and create jobs. As we confront the threat of climate change, we must enact thoughtful policy that ensures we protect and preserve agricultural land and support the many people whose livelihoods depend on our farms.
ALPP easements are voluntary. A farmer whose land meets certain size and soil criteria can offer to sell a perpetual easement to the County, while owning the land and continuing to farm. The farm may be sold, but the easement, which restricts the development of the property, remains with the land, and binds all future owners.
The approval of the legislation for the Dickey property would preserve land that is primarily in a corn and soybean rotation and is comprised of 97% Class I, II and III soils. There is a high concentration of preserved land nearby, including the Dickey family’s 290-acre ALPP easement farm to the west, which has been in the Program since 1984.
The Dickey property is the largest remaining farm in the rural west of Howard County that is eligible for the ALPP, so we are especially excited to protect this valuable resource through a perpetual agricultural easement.
Since 1978 Howard County has protected farmland using three methods.
- The purchase of agricultural preservation easements by the County
- The dedication of agricultural preservation parcels as provided for in the County’s zoning regulations
- The purchase of agricultural preservation easements by the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation
“We are so pleased to have this property enter the Howard County Ag Preservation Program,” said Mickey Day, Chair of the Agricultural Preservation Board. “It is one of the few large tracts remaining and by inclusion in the program, completes an adjacent area of land that will be preserved for future generations.”
In June 2019, County Executive Calvin Ball re-opened the ALPP after the program was shut down for a year due to a budget shortfall. By working with the Department of Planning and Zoning, the Finance Department, and the Agricultural Preservation Board, Ball was able to responsibly restore this important program and update the scoring system used to determine the easement price. Ball began accepting applications to the ALPP once the County Council approved the revised scoring system in July 2020. The first property in the current acquisition cycle, comprising 35 acres, settled in June 2021. Including the Dickey Farm, there are five additional properties in the acquisition pipeline, totaling 295 acres.