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Maryland to distribute $2.4M to ‘Next Gen Program’ farmers

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This summer qualified young and beginning Maryland farmers who seek to purchase farmland, but need some specialized financial assistance to enter (or continue in) the agricultural profession can get some green backing in exchange for helping to preserve the farmland through the “Next Gen Program.”

Launched by the Maryland Agricultural and Resource-Based Industry Development Corporation (MARBIDCO) the Next Gen Program (Next Generation Farmland Acquisition Program) is basically a rapid-response, farmland conservation easement-option purchase program, designed to help facilitate the transfer of farmland to a new generation of farmers, while also effectively helping to preserve agricultural land from future development. The selection for participation in this program is expected to be competitive.

“We are very appreciative of the support that we have received from the Hogan Administration and the Maryland General Assembly for this innovative dual-purpose program,” said Steve McHenry, MARBIDCO’s Executive Director. “Bringing this concept to reality has been a priority for young farmer advocates for quite some time, and the Next Gen Program is finally here.”

Because of the financial support from the State of Maryland, MARBIDCO will have nearly $2.4 million available to distribute to select “Next Gen Farmers” during the coming year, when their farms – not currently under permanent preservation – are being purchased.

Through the Next Gen Program, MARBIDCO will pay up to 51 percent of the Fair Market Value (FMV) of the agricultural land only (with a cap of $500,000) with these funds being provided as a down-payment at a real estate settlement, and with MARBIDCO taking an option on a conservation easement purchase.

This is designed to enable a commercial lender to also make a loan to help with the purchase of a farm. The Next Gen Farmer will then have a period of several years to sell the permanent conservation easement on the farmland to a rural land conservation program (thus extinguishing the development rights on the property forever). If the Next Gen Farmer cannot sell the permanent easement within the specified timeframe, the purchase option will be exercised to grant the permanent easement to a statewide or local farmland conservation program or rural land trust.

While there is no age restriction to participate in the program, persons who are “beginner farmers,” or those with suitable agricultural training but 10 or fewer years of farming experience, will have a greater likelihood of being selected to participate.

Persons interested in applying to the Next Gen Program are requested to make contact with their county farmland preservation program office (in the county in which the farmland is located) by no later than Monday, July 31, 2017, to discuss the suitability of a subject farm being permanently preserved.

The formal Next Gen Program application deadline (including submission of all required forms and related attachments) is Thursday, August 31, 2017; by no later than 4:00 p.m., at the MARBIDCO offices in Annapolis. Late applications will not be accepted.

Applicants approved for the farm purchase down-payment assistance will be notified of program acceptance by mid-October, with the real estate settlements expected to occur two to four months after approval once land appraisals, surveys, and other transactional closing work has been completed.

Any views or opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect those of AGDAILY. Comments on this article reflect the sole opinions of their writers.
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