Crop- and Forestland Preservation and Conservation :: Present Use Value :: Voluntary Agricultural Districts :: Conservation Easements :: Farmland Protection Plans & Programs

Crop- and Forestland Conservation and Preservation

This report focuses on state-sponsored conservation programs available to regional farmers but federal programs are also available: FarmlandConservationPrograms.xlsx. Many crop- and forestland farms participate in state and federal programs simultaneously.

Voluntary Agricultural District (VAD) Programscow.jpgVAD.jpg

What is this?

A Voluntary Agricultural District (VAD) is a county-based program administered by a local Agricultural Advisory Board that intends to encourage the preservation and protection of farmland from non-farm development. We report the total acreage enrolled in each counties program. All acreage must be enrolled in the county's Present Use Value program and meet its requirements prior to enrollment in an agricultural district.

Why is this important?

In exchange for managing their land according to program specifications farmers have a seat at the decision-making table, receive increased protection from nuisance suits, may have water and sewer assessments waived, and are eligible for other cost-saving benefits. Enrollment in this program is an indicator of the landowner’s long-term commitment to land remaining in agriculture.

What does this measure show?

Table 1. Acreage enrolled in Voluntary Agriculture District programs regionally. Source: County Soil & Water Districts.
Year Started
Land Requirement Summary
Acres Enrolled
State law requires of minimum of 20 acres in a district. "We have made ours so that if 4 folks in horticulture with 5 acres each all living within 1 mile of each other will qualify as a district." – Samuel Groce, Chatham County
Land managed in accordance with Durham Soil & Water District requirements
Minimum of 25 acres of cropland, 20 acres of forestry, and/or 5 acres of horticulture operations
Land managed in accordance with NRCS requirements for highly-erodible land; subject to conservation agreement

Minimum of 20 contiguous acres actively used in agricultural, horticultural or forestry operations for 5 years; managed in accordance with NRCS requirements for highly-erodible land
Minimum of 100 contiguous acreage; intention to remain in farming for the next 10 years.

The qualifications for enrollment in the VAD Program vary by county, affecting the amount of farmland enrolled. Acreage requirements are the most demanding in Orange County. Chatham County has a lower threshold for entering the program and this may account for enrollment differences. Low acreage enrollment in Wake may be due to development density and local zoning ordinances banning farming operations, as is the case in the Town of Apex.

Authors: Aimee Schmidt and Elina Inkiläinen, NCSU (CNR) graduate students::2010.05.06
Reviewers: Tandy Jones, TLC; Dr. Nancy Creamer, NCSU

Technical Notes

The Soil & Water District serving each county was contacted to provide acreage enrollment data. Land requirement information was gleaned from the official websites maintained by county staff: <URLs>. The raw data and metadata can be found here: VoluntaryAgDistricts.xlsx

[1] 25 parcels will be enrolling in June 2010
[2] As of 2008. Reported in Wake County Soil & Water District's 2007-2008 Annual Report