The county received $2.9 million in state dollars this year, putting it sixth among all counties statewide.
The state had $40 million to distribute, said Doug Wolfgang, chief of the state Department of Agriculture's land use and natural resource division.
Combined with the county's own contribution of $2.1 million, which is used to help determine state funding, the program has a total of just more than $5 million to spend on farmland conservation easements.
That puts it second in the program's history, Patty McCandless, program coordinator. Last year, the county had about $6.5 million, which has all either been spent or obligated toward farms in the preservation process.
"Farmland preservation is important because it is helping to balance the growth we have experienced over the last 40 years," McCandless said. "It is going to ensure that lands will stay available for agricultural purposes."
At the average price of about $3,000 per acre for an easement, this year's funding should allow the county to preserve about 1,700 acres, McCandless said.
The easements require that the farm stay in agricultural use.
McCandless said the preservation program is good for taxpayers because farms and open space in general contribute more to the tax base than they require in taxpayer-funded services.
"It (open space) doesn't require anything of us," she said. "It simply gives. People are what require services, not farms and open land."
-- Reach Carl Lindquist at 505-5432 or firstname.lastname@example.org.