What are Voluntary Agricultural Districts?
Farming is still Chatham County's number one industry, however, there is increasing pressure from urban encroachment and rural housing developments that threaten those that work and live on the farm.
The objectives of the Voluntary Agricultural District status are:
- To encourage the preservation of farmland
- To provide farmers protection from nuisance suits
- To protect farmers (major landowners) from bearing the financial burden of infrastructure development.
Benefits for the Participant
Those farms that are participating in a Voluntary Agricultural District can receive benefits, including:
- Protection from infrastructure development
- If water or sewer lines are run across your property, any cost-share charges will be held in abeyance until the land is sold, or landowner hooks onto the system, at no interest.
- Public Hearings
- No government agency or public utility can begin condemnation proceedings for a farm listed in a voluntary agricultural district without a public hearing. Then the entity wanting the land will have to show that other alternatives other than taking a farm have been examined.
For farms participating in a Voluntary Agricultural District, county resources at both the tax and register of deeds offices will show on their maps farms which are a part of any voluntary agricultural district. When title searches are done for property purchases, those farms will be identified as neighboring existing farms in Chatham County. This will serve as prior notification to the purchaser that they are purchasing a home or land located in close proximity to an operating agricultural enterprise.
To qualify, a farm must be:
- Participating in farm land-use taxation
- Be certified as a farm by NRCS or
- Managed according to NRCS erosion control practices or
- Subject of conservation agreement
Final qualification will be determined by the Chatham County Agricultural Advisory Board following submission of application by the farm/landowner.
A Voluntary Program
This is a voluntary program. No farm will be required to participate. The term of the agreement is ten years, however, a landowner may revoke this agreement at any time by notifying the agricultural advisory board in writing.
How to Apply
A voluntary agricultural district in Chatham County must be comprised of at least twenty acres. These twenty acres do not have to be contiguous. However, they must be located within one mile of each other. If you do not meet the minimum land qualifications you may find neighbors who are also interested in forming a district and join together to meet the minimum acreage qualifications.
To make an application, fill out the online application or contact either the Chatham County Managers Office at 919-542-8200, Chatham County Center of the North Carolina cooperative Extension Service at 919-542-8202 or the Chatham Soil and Water Conservation office at 919-542-8240 to receive an application. Fill out the application and return it to one of the three offices. From there it will go before Chatham County Agricultural Advisory Board for acceptance or denial. If accepted by the board the farm will be in a voluntary agricultural district.
Steps in Application Procedure:
- Fill out and return application to our office, the County Manager's Office or the Extension Office
- Application will be pre-approved by staff member of Extension, Soil and Water or Farm Service Agency
- Application will be given final approval by the county Agricultural Advisory Board.
- Information will go to Register of Deeds and Tax Office for mapping.
Chatham Soil & Water Conservation District
Chatham County Managers Office
Chatham County Center
North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service