To Qualify for Forest Use
The owner must certify that the real estate (minimum of 20 acres) is being used in a planned program of timber management and soil conservation practices which are intended to:
- Enhance the growth of commercially desirable species through generally accepted silviculture practices.
- Reduce or prevent soil erosion by Best Management Practices such as logging road layout and stabilization, streamside management zones, water diversion practices and other Best Management Practices which prevent soil erosion and improve water quality.
Certification of intent by the owner must be shown by:
- A signed commitment to maintain and protect forest land by documenting land use objectives to include methods of resource management and soil and water protection.
- Submitting a plan prepared by a professional forester.
To Qualify for Open-Space Use
Generally, the open-space use of the property must be consistent with the land use plan of the county, which has been made and adopted officially in accordance with Article 4, Chapter 11, Title 15.1 of the Code of Virginia. A land use consistent with the land use plan means a use that is consistent with areas of land use zones depicted on a map that is part of the land use plan, or that directly supports or it is generally consistent with stated land uses, natural resources conservation or historic preservation objectives, goals or standards of the land use plan.
A property that is subject to a recorded perpetual conservation, historic or open-space easement held by any public body, or is part of an agricultural, a forestal or an agricultural and forestal district approved by local government, shall be considered to be consistent with the Land Use plan.
Specifically, the real estate must consist of a minimum of 25 acres and must be in one of the following three categories:
- Within an ag and forestal district entered into pursuant to Chapter 36 of Title 15.1 of the Code of Virginia;
- Subject to a recorded perpetual easement that is held by a public body and that promotes the open-space use classification as defined in 58.1-3230 of the Code of Virginia; or
- Subject to a recorded commitment entered into by the land owner with the governing body.
To Qualify for Agricultural or Horticultural Use
The applicant shall certify that the real estate is being used in a BONA FIDE program of management and production of field crops, livestock, livestock products, poultry, poultry products, dairy, dairy products, aquaculture products, or horticulture products for sale. The real estate must consist of a minimum of five acres and if it has not previously qualified for agricultural or horticultural use proof of a five year farming history must be provided. A farming history affidavit is available from the Commissioner's office if it was farmed by others.
Field crop production shall be primarily for commercial uses and the average crop yield per acre on each crop grown on the real estate during the immediate three years previous shall be equal to at least one-half of the county average for the past three years; except that the local government may prescribe lesser requirements when unusual circumstances prevail and such requirements are not realistic.
Livestock, dairy, poultry, or aquaculture production shall be primarily for commercial sale of livestock, dairy, poultry and aquaculture products. Livestock, dairy and poultry shall have a minimum of twelve animal unit-months of commercial livestock or poultry per five acres of open land in the previous year. One animal unit to be one cow, one horse, five sheep, five swine, one hundred chickens, sixty-six turkeys, one hundred other fowl. (An animal unit month means one mature cow or the equivalent on five acres of land for one month; therefore, twelve animal unit-months means the maintenance of one mature animal on each five acres for twelve months, or any combination of mature animals and months that would equal twelve animal unit months such as three mature animals for four months, four mature animals for three months, two mature animals for six months, etc.)
Aquaculture production shall be primarily for commercial sale of freshwater fish and shellfish under controlled conditions for food.
Horticulture production includes nursery, greenhouse, cut flowers, plant material, orchards, vineyards and small fruit products.
Timber production, in addition to crop, livestock, dairy, poultry, aquaculture and horticultural production on the real estate must meet the standards prescribed by the State Forester for the forest areas and will be assessed at use value for forestry purposes. AT LEAST ONE OF THE FOLLOWING DOCUMENTS MUST BE FILED WITH THE LAND USE APPLICATION OR REVALIDATION FORM WHEN APPLYING FOR AGRICULTURAL OR HORTICULTURAL USE:
- Federal tax forms (1040F) Farm Expenses and Income, (4835) Farm Rental Income and Expenses, (1040E) Cash Rent for Agricultural Land, (1040C) Business Profit and Loss or (1120) Corporate/Partnership.
- Gross Sales/Receipts averaging more than $1,000 annually.
- The assigned USDA/ASCS farm number, and evidence of participating in a federal farm program.
- A conservation Farm Management Plan prepared by a professional.
The Commissioner may require more than one document.