Development rights are one of the rights in the ‘bundle of rights’ that we have when we own a parcel of land. Selling the development rights is a way to bring down the cost of land to a buyer, like a new farmer. The owner would sell the development rights to an organization like the Vermont Land Trust, and then sell the land to a new farmer. The owner would receive the fair market value of the land from 2 sources, (VT Land Trust and the new farmer) and the new farmer would pay a lower price for the land.
The Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB) is in charge of using money from the State of Vermont to help fund the purchase of development rights. In 2013, Vermont invested $2.7 million in the purchase of development rights from farms. This money leveraged another $4 million from USDA and NRCS.
The VHCB information page on Vermont’s Farmland Conservation Program states that the demand by farmers to sell development rights outstrips the supply of cash to buy the rights. So, VHCB has criteria that they use to rank proposals. The main criterion is soils. (That makes sense, the soils are going to be there long after you and I are here.) Soils in different proposals are ranked by the percentage of soil in the proposal that is scored as either Prime Ag Soil, or Soil of Statewide Significance. You can learn more about soils and see a map of soil types in Vermont on the Agency of Natural Resources online Natural Resources Atlas. Learn more about this tool in our previous blog post about the Atlas. Scroll to the bottom of the info page for the VHCB Policy for the Conservation of Ag Land publication and the selection criterion.
For more information on development rights, Nancy Everhart, firstname.lastname@example.org, the Ag Director at VHCB would be a good person to talk to, 802-828-5066802-828-5066.
For more information download the Farmland Classification Systems for Vermont Soils, NRCS publication.