Thursday, February 15, 2018

PA's Farmland Preservation Reaches $1 Billion Milestone, 2,043 More Acres Preserved

The Agricultural Land Preservation Board Thursday approved the preservation of 28 farms covering 2,043 acres in 16 counties.
The Board also approved the 2018 spending threshold of $37 million, which pushes the Commonwealth’s total commitment to farmland preservation to more than $1 billion since 1988.
Gov. Tom Wolf included another $40 million for Farmland Preservation in his 2018-19 budget.
“Today is a good day for the families who are committing their farms to the future of agriculture in Pennsylvania because they want to see their farms remain in production, and it’s a good day for the future of the industry here,” said state Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “It’s also a historic day as we mark another milestone. For 30 years, we have been investing in the future of agriculture as a commonwealth—protecting our most fertile lands from the threat of development. Now, we have the nation’s largest program of its type. That is something we should all be proud of.”
The 28 farms preserved today are found in Allegheny, Beaver, Berks, Centre, Chester, Clinton, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Montour, Northampton, Northumberland, Wayne, Westmoreland and York counties.
Since the program began in 1988, federal, state, county and local governments have purchased permanent easements on 5,270 farms totaling 546,963 acres in 59 counties for agricultural production.
In addition to the $37 million state spending threshold the 17-member board approved for 2018 easement purchases, counties have certified another $16.7 million in funding for farmland preservation this year.
Last year, Pennsylvania counties surpassed the $500 million mark for total funds committed to the program throughout its history.
“Nearly $54 million in new funding will be committed to preserving farmland in the coming year. Those acres will be set aside to help feed future generations in Pennsylvania and around the world,” added Redding. “But even as we celebrate 30 years of preservation success, there is clearly more work to do. Nearly 1,500 farms wait on county backlog lists, waiting to be protected permanently from the threat of development. Having Gov. Wolf’s commitment for additional funding next year and the commitment of our county partners will help close that backlog.”
The PA Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Program, as it is formally known, is dedicated to slowing the loss of prime farmland to non-agricultural uses.
Funding allows state, county and local governments to purchase conservation easements, from owners of quality farmland. State, county, local, and federal funds committed at the meeting, and allocated to county programs, will secure the purchase of development rights to preserve farms waiting on the county backlog lists.
In some cases, federal funding helps to preserve these lands.
In 2016, the department signed a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service that allows Pennsylvania’s program to submit farms for consideration by the federal Agricultural Conservation Easement Program.
The department secured $1,725,650 in funds under its most recent cooperative agreement to preserve eight farms totaling 1,652 acres, with the potential for additional funding in 2018.
For more information on the program, visit Agriculture’s Farmland Preservation webpage.

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