BUCKHANNON — Upshur County Farmland Protection Board’s Vice-Chair John Sencindiver came before the Upshur County Commission on October 1 proposing to establish “farmland of local importance” in the county.
Part of the evaluation process that the Farmland Protection Board uses to determine if they will purchase an easement of land includes meeting a list of criteria, such as soil acreage and quality of soil. Sencindiver explained that soil is divided into three categories for purposes of evaluating the farms: prime farmland, which is identified at the national level, farmland of statewide importance, and farmland of local importance.
Upshur County currently has four mapping units classified as prime farmland and 17 out of 82 mapping units for statewide importance; however, there are currently no mapping units classified as farmland of local importance.
Therefore, the Upshur County Farmland Protection Board contacted the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and asked, “Why?” They simply stated that Upshur County has not asked for it. According to Sencindiver, an agency in the county must initiate a proposal and ask NRCS to evaluate. “I must get various agencies to support the proposal, and most importantly, the Upshur County Commission,” he explained. He looked into other counties and found that Braxton, Lewis, Taylor, Webster and Harrison all have soils identified as farmland of local importance. Hopefully, Upshur County will soon be added to the list.
The Farmland Protection Board is proposing nine identified soil mapping units. “Looking at the farms we have evaluated already and looking at soils identified as such in other counties, these on the surface may not look great, but they are important to Upshur County for hay land, pasture or forestry,” explained Sencindiver.
Therefore, they are requesting that the Commission give their support and approve the Farmland Protection Board’s proposal to the NRCS to have these soils officially designated as farmland of local importance. If the NRCS designates the nine proposed soils, they will be on display on the national database on websoilsurvey.com.
The board is required to submit their proposal to the NRCS with a list of local and state agencies that support the proposal. They currently have support from the Tygarts Valley Conservation District, Tasha Harris with the WVU Extension Office, area and state soil scientists, and the Upshur County Commission. The Commission was the last puzzle piece for the Farmland Protection Board. Commissioner Sam Nolte made a motion to support and approve the request, as well as to provide a letter to adequately exhibit their support.