Rapid growth raising environmental stakes

July 23, 2021

Delaware’s Department of Agriculture announced this week that another 3,695 acres of farmland have been permanently preserved through the state’s Farmland Preservation program. That brings to 143,000 the total acreage of Delaware farmland that has been preserved through the program, one of the highest percentages of farmland preservation in all of the United States. That’s 27 percent of the state’s farmland preserved in perpetuity for agriculture.

State legislators also approved millions more dollars in funding for farmland preservation in the recently passed budget for the new fiscal year. That’s all good and important news.

In the Department of Agriculture press release about the recent round of preservation purchases, which includes 22 farms in Sussex, Administrator Todd Lawson applauded the program, noting that Sussex County Council has allocated significant funding in this year’s county budget to piggyback with the state program. He remarked that farmland is under tremendous pressure in the 21st century.

That’s especially true in Sussex where the predominant zoning, agricultural/residential, allows farming as well as two units per acre of residential development. That raises prices offered for farmland, which drives the tremendous pressure of which Lawson speaks. Recent development proposals are coming in with thousands of planned units instead of hundreds of units, which was more standard in the past.

Preservation of farmland, outside of any long-shot change in zoning, is the best tool for mitigating that pressure.

In the meantime, recent news of the Artesian wastewater project coming on line near Milton, which includes 1,700 acres of farmland available for reclaiming treated wastewater for irrigating and fertilizing crops, is good news for the Broadkill River watershed. Artesian has started treating wastewater from the Allen Harim poultry plant in Harbeson, ending its long-term practice of emptying treated effluent into Beaverdam Creek, which flows into the river.

As Sussex continues its inevitable growth, we have to keep a close eye on our environment, and encourage positive initiatives such as farmland preservation and the Artesian system for reclaiming treated wastewater, which also helps preserve more farmland.  

  • Editorials are considered and written by Cape Gazette Editorial Board members, including Publisher Chris Rausch, Editor Jen Ellingsworth, News Editor Nick Roth and reporters Ron MacArthur and Chris Flood. 

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