A “Downstate Blogger” responds to 35th Rep. David Wilson’s letter to the editor on Farmland Preservation. Also, notes on the straw poll at Sussex GOP’s Georgetown headquarters.
Representative David Wilson’s Letter to the Editor on Farmland Preservation
The “Downstate Blog” take on this.
State Rep. David L. Wilson
R-District 35 (northwest and north-central Sussex County, including Bridgeville, Greenwood and part of Georgetown)
Below the entirety of Rep. David Wilson’s letter to the editor regarding Farmland preservation. Everywhere that I have inserted a line of asterisks means I have comments on that paragraph at the end.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Holding Delaware accountable to Farmland Preservation Program
March 25, 2016 · by Letters to the Editor · 0 Comments
A bill I sponsored to protect Delaware’s Farmland Preservation Program money from being raided was recently defeated in the House of Representatives.
House Bill 124 would have ensured that the program — which purchases the permanent development rights of farmland at a steep discount — received the money it was promised more than a decade ago.
Under existing law (Title 30, Section 5426), the Farmland Preservation Fund is
supposed to get the first $10 million from the state’s annual share of the Realty Transfer Tax revenue. That law was enacted in 2005.
According to the Delaware Division of Revenue, the Realty Transfer Tax added $73.6 million to the state’s coffers in 2015. The issue is not one of availability, but protection.
Delaware law prevents one General Assembly from binding the actions of lawmakers in a future General Assembly short of amending the state constitution. Because the farmland preservation funding law is not part of the state constitution, its money is vulnerable to being raided.
The lawmakers that enacted the law in 2005 knew this. However, they thought the clear statement of legislative intent embodied in the law, combined with the negative attention of violating it, would be sufficient to keep future lawmakers and governors honest.
That was the case for the first few years, but not much since then. For the sixth year in a row, Gov. Markell’s proposed budget seeks to take most of the program’s money for other uses. In the budget that would take effect July 1, Gov. Markell suggested only $3 million for the program.
State government should not be ignoring the law just because it can. The General Assembly expects others to obey the laws it enacts, and legislators should be demanding no less of themselves. Is it any wonder people do not trust government when it so easily breaks the promises it makes to its citizens?
Aside from the ethical argument of honoring a commitment, there is a very practical point to be made about the need for a stable, predictable source of funding for farmland preservation.
I recently saw a comment posted on a downstate blog that said agriculture was not the future of Sussex County.
I disagree. Farming is essential to our present and future, not only in Sussex County, but our entire state.
Agriculture is Delaware’s leading industry. It accounts for approximately $1.5 billion in annual sales and employs thousands of Delawareans. Farms comprise nearly 500,000 acres, or about 40 percent of our landmass.
However, Delaware’s farm acreage has dropped every year.
Maintaining a critical mass of agricultural land is essential to supporting needed farm services and preventing conflicts with encroaching residential development.
The Farmland Preservation Program is designed to maintain blocks of agricultural land through the coordinated purchase of permanent development rights in a competitive process requiring landowners to offer steep discounts. In recent years, this has worked so well, the state has acquired these rights for about a third of their market value — permanently preserving farmland and open space while keeping this land in active production.
Additionally, farmers are not pocketing this money. Studies show that the overwhelming majority of it is being plowed back into their operations, increasing the vitality of the industry and sparking economic activity.
Some people have questioned why I would vote for a Bond Bill that did not include the full funding to which I believe the preservation program is entitled. Despite my strong beliefs regarding the program, I would not selfishly jeopardize funding for roads, libraries, schools and many other vital projects which are also contained in the Bond Bill.
Last year, I successfully fought to get partial funding for farmland preservation when some of my colleagues favored not appropriating anything. Ideally, I would have liked to have seen the program receive the full $10 million it was promised, but I’m certain the $3 million I restored was greater than zero.
While the recent 20-to-17 vote on my constitutional amendment to guarantee farmland preservation funding fell short of the 28 votes it needed to pass in the House, I will not stop advocating for this issue.
Next year, if I am fortunate enough to return in the 149th General Assembly, I will reintroduce my bill and continue my fight to help family farms and support an industry to which so many Delawareans owe their livelihoods.
I think this is a very precise, and accurate, narrative. I do, as expected, have some thoughts.
Let us begin with this notion of “permanent development rights”. Goodness I had to spend time on the phone with my state Senator trying to grasp this concept. And I really do get it, the easement, the agency that handles the sale of “developmental rights”. If I can summarize somewhat awkwardly, the price of developmental rights is essentially the difference in value of a large plot of land as a farm or as a sale to a developer, just throwing it out there.
At any rate, just because this Downstate Blogger understands it, it’s a somewhat tricky subject. Which makes it all the more difficult to get the public on your side, especially those from New Jersey, who think farms are populated by ants.
I am amazed that Rep. Wilson thought that politicians of the future beyond 2005 would be decent and honest. Especially to Sussex county, who Northern Delaware does not like, ,much less farms for God’s sake. You should have asked me. If I knew you guys were passing laws that required a politician’s decency, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, I would have warned you guys!
And what “downstate Blog would this be?
By Wilson’s own admission, farms now comprise 40% of Sussex land mass and is dropping. Of course it’s dropping.
Here’s the thing….I understand that Rep. Wilson has a constituency that consists of many farmers. HE’s doing his job here and he’s doing it well.
Too bad it’s not going to work for Delaware is a coastal state. There is a big ocean right next to all of Delaware.
Farming is for Idaho and the midwest!
Yeah, I know we got chickens but that won’t be for long. Delaware is going to the ocean and no, I don’t want it to be a big Ocean City free-for-all.
I am glad that Rep. Wilson got the three million by the way because damn right, that realty transfer tax is bringing in money…nobody’s moving to Wilmington for God’s sake.
And yeah, I think you should have got it all.
It’s just not likely.
I believed I questioned why Rep Wilson voted for the budget at all if it didn’t provide the full ten million. He says he wanted such as libraries and ambulances to continue on.
Who are these colleagues who voted against full funding? Weren’t any Republicans were they? Nobody from Sussex county?
I’ll check it out.
I think Rep. Wilson might have a difficult go of it this election cycle. He has only himself to chastise.
He openly supported a Democrat to run against incumbent Cindy Green as Sussex county Recorder of Wills. For that he deserves to lose.
Not to mention his thinly veiled threats of turning Democrat himself.
The Sussex GOP Straw Poll
I have complained in various forms and mannerisms about the straw poll being sponsored by the Sussex GOP at Georgetown headquarters.
So I stopped in today and I was impressed all to hell. Although I do have some serious reservations, but let us move on.
First, I’d been hearing for about forever about Sally and Bill Duveneck’s renovation of the Georgetown headquarters. Folks, truth, it looks terrific.
This from a woman who worked that office from 2004 through 2010 and I know what it looked like before.
Got a couple of pics to include, be patient. Below a proposed example of a letter to be sent to National GOP Chair Reince Priebus.
Below, a copy of what the voter will see in the upcoming primary.
Below, a pic of the safe holding the votes so yon readers know there was no tampering with the contents.
I really wish this event was publicized more. Sally assured me that she sent press releases to everyone including a few people on Mars. And, indeed, I did see it advertised on WXDE so I know it’s the truth.
But so much more could have been done with it. And please do not think I cast aspersions upon the Duveneck. I do not know who started this thing and don’t want to know.
There was so much possibility, a chance to introduce folks to headquarters, a chance to raise money. My mind spins with how much could have been done.
Sally Duveneck DID tell me, so let’s get this started now, that the Sussex GOP will be sponsoring a “GOP yard sale” in May.
Start the planning. It will still be an election year in May. There’s so much that can be done.
Doesn’t the Sussex GOP have a fundraising committee?
Results are going to be announced at the Georgetown Sussex GOP headquarters early this coming Friday morning.
It’s a mystery, it’s funny, it’s colorful, there’s music, great animation….a top notch Disney movie. Click in to see why
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NEXT : Full report on the new state animal control meeting coming soon, maybe tonight.