Voluntary Ag Districts: New Ordinance Template Available

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The Voluntary Agricultural District State Working Group has reviewed and released a new model ordinance. This model ordinance incorporates the basics of VAD enrollment and board management, and incorporates recent changes in the VAD authorizing statute made by the General Assembly in the Farm Act of 2021 (SL 2021-78).

Specifically, the new ordinance language synchs up with the new requirement that qualifying farmland be in use eligible for the Bona Fide Farm zoning exemption under N.C.G.S. 160D-903. The template also clarifies the extension of the ‘half-mile’ neighbor notification buffer from an enrolled parcel’s boundary line (instead of a vague starting point). Most importantly, the template corrects a technical problem whereby the VAD Board may now enroll districts by delegation of authority, which alleviates the need to have each new enrolled parcel approved by the County Commissioners.

Regarding the confusion over what geographically constitutes an “agricultural district” (e.g. one farm or multiple farms), the model ordinance offers the following suggestion:

  • When initially established, the District shall contain a minimum of twenty-five (25) contiguous acres of qualified farmland, OR, two or more qualified farms that, together, contain a minimum of twenty-five (25) acres and are located within a mile of each other.
  • Landowner(s) requesting inclusion in the VAD shall execute a conservation agreement with the county to sustain agriculture in the VAD in accordance with Article VII of this ordinance. Said agreement shall be in a form which is reviewed and approved by the Advisory Board.

The 25 acre figure is suggestive, and there is no statutory minimum, and the Farm Act update confirms county flexibility in designing VAD parameters. This acreage minimum easily allows a single parcel to qualify as a VAD.

Here is a link to the 2022 Model Voluntary Agricultural District Ordinance.

The Voluntary Agricultural District State Working Group is comprised of representatives from NCDA&CS, N.C. Cooperative Extension, NC Farm Bureau Federation, NC Department of Transportation, and others.