Farmer Benefits & Protections
Article 25-AA PDF of the Agriculture and
Markets Law authorizes the creation of local agricultural districts
pursuant to landowner initiative, preliminary county review, state
certification, and county adoption. As of January 1, 2014, 224 agricultural districts existed statewide, containing approximately 24,130 farms and 8.8 million acres (about 30 percent of the State’s total land area).
The purpose of agricultural districting is to encourage the continued
use of farmland for agricultural production. The Program is based
on a combination of landowner incentives and protections, all of
which are designed to forestall the conversion of farmland to non-agricultural
uses. Included in these benefits are preferential real property
tax treatment (agricultural assessment and special benefit assessment),
and protections against overly restrictive local laws, government
funded acquisition or construction projects, and private nuisance
suits involving agricultural practices.
Agriculture and Farmland Protection Biennial Report 2012 - 2013
District Creation & Review
The Division manages the certification of new districts and the
review and recertification of existing districts. State certification
confirms that a district meets the purposes and intent of the Agricultural
Districts Law and all eligibility criteria described therein.
Local Agricultural District Contact Information and County Agricultural District Map Data
Agricultural District 8-Year Review Forms
One of the most important benefits of the Agricultural Districts
Program is the opportunity provided farmland owners to receive real
property assessments based on the value of their land for agricultural
production rather than on its development value. Farmers receiving
agricultural assessment collectively save over $70 million annually.
The Division administers the Land Classification System, including
maintenance of the statewide master list of agricultural soils.
This system provides the basic soils information needed to calculate
agricultural assessments for individual farms.
Soil Group Numbers by County for 2014
Soil Group Worksheet - Form
2014 Agricultural Assessment Values
Notice of Intent
Another important provision of the Agricultural Districts Law is
the mandate it places on state agencies, local governments, and
public benefit corporations to avoid or minimize adverse impacts
to farm operations in pursuing projects within an agricultural district
which involve either the acquisition of farmland or the advance
of public funds for certain construction activities. Division staff
conduct detailed reviews of notice documents provided by project
sponsors and recommend mitigative action where necessary. Such projects
cannot proceed until the notice process is completed.
Restrictive Local Laws
The Agricultural Districts Law protects farmers against local laws
which unreasonably restrict farm operations located within an agricultural
district. Division staff, together with Department legal staff,
review both existing and proposed laws to determine if they are
compatible with farm operations. In cases where a local law is determined
to be unreasonable, staff work with the involved local government
to develop mutually accepted modifications. If a local government
is unwilling to modify a restrictive law, the Department is authorized
to take action to compel compliance with the Agricultural Districts
Law. In a landmark decision, the State Court of Appeals ruled that
the opinion of the Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets should
be given deference in the interpretation and administration of this
important right to farm protection.
Requests for review must be provided to the Department in writing
and include a completed Section 305-a
Review Form. Questions concerning the review of restrictive
local laws can be directed to Bob Somers at 518-457-2713 or at email@example.com.
Sound Agricultural Practices
Agricultural Districts Law also authorizes the Commissioner to issue
opinions, upon request, concerning the soundness of specific agricultural
practices. If the Commissioner determines that a practice is sound,
it shall not constitute a private nuisance. Division staff perform
in-depth, on-site reviews of practices which are called into question.
The information and facts they obtain form the basis for the Commissioner's
opinion. In order for a practice to be considered sound, it must
be legal, not harmful, necessary and supported by expert guidance
or opinion. Most of these cases involve extensive investigation
and may take six to twelve months or longer to complete depending
on the complexity of the issue.
To request a sound agricultural practice review, a letter must be
sent to the Department describing, in detail, the farm operation,
the practices to be reviewed, and the nature of the nuisance complaint.
All inquiries should be directed to Matt Brower at 518-457-2713
or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Procedures Used to Conduct a Sound Agricultural
"Sound Agricultural Practice"
Agricultural Enterprise Determinations
Under Section 308(4), the Commissioner is authorized to issue an
opinion on whether particular land uses are agricultural in nature.
When examining all agricultural practices, the Commissioner uses
the Agriculture and Markets Law Article 25AA to determine
whether or not the practice under review is agricultural. To request
an opinion, a letter must be submitted to the Commissioner describing
the particular land use and any supporting information that may
be helpful. Questions concerning such opinions should be directed
to Bob Somers at 518-457-2713 or at email@example.com.