Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date


Document Number

Research Paper #2007-7


To prevent the loss of farmland in West Virginia, the Voluntary Farmland Protection Act (VFPA) was passed in 2000. This act gives counties and the State authority to develop and fund local farmland protection programs, which typically involve a voluntary sale by a landowner of the right to develop the farmland. Following the purchase, the purchaser (often a government or a land trust) would retire the property. Since the inception of the VFPA, 5,000 acres of farmland have been retired in West Virginia. The objective of the paper is to assess the merit of this legislation in terms of its contribution toward its objective of preserving open space. The analysis is carried out at three levels, including the state, county and operational level. The state level analysis is conducted to assess the overall risk of eroding farmland in West Virginia. Aggregate statewide data will be used to determine this risk, including data on population density and state economic growth rates. A similar assessment is conducted at the county level to determine if development rights are more common in high growth counties (i.e., a micro level assessment). Finally, an analysis is conducted at the operational level to determine the operational efficiency the programs carried out under this legislation. The focus will be on the risk of misappropriation. Issues related to transparency and accountability in the distribution of funds swill be analyzed (how are decisions made, and how is accountability achieved). It is concluded that there seem to be, at the minimum, significant inroads for critical examination of the VFPA.