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DETROIT-Two meetings in Lansing and Roscommon will address how municipalities can ask for state money to keep farm land from being commercially developed.The Michigan Agricultural Preservation Fund Board is seeking public comment on its proposed guidelines and application process for selecting applications from local governments for buying development rights, according to Dan Wyant, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture.

Wyant’s department oversees both the fund and the board. To qualify for a grant, a local government must develop and adopt a preservation ordinance, update the community master plan to include farmland preservation and provide matching funds of at least 25%.

Once an application is submitted, the board will evaluate, score, and rankgrant applications on market value of agricultural products grown per acre; the loss of farmland acres; the amount of farmland in the county; the number of rural non-farm residents; and the percent of match and the portion which has been provided by the local unit of government.

Because MDA and the board must wait until sufficient funds are available, the first grant cycle will likely occur no earlier than 2004.

Since 1998, the MDA-run program has acquired 59 development rights easements protecting over 13,900 acres at an investment of more than $26 million.

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