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Department of Agriculture & Markets

 Farmland Protection Program

Under Article 25-AAA of the Agriculture and Markets Law, the Commissioner is authorized to administer two matching grant programs focused on farmland protection. One assists county governments in developing agricultural and farmland protection plans to maintain the economic viability of the State's agricultural industry and its supporting land base; the other assists local governments in implementing their farmland protection plans and has focused on preserving the land base by purchasing the development rights on farms using a legal document called a conservation easement (see section below). The purchase of development rights (PDR) can help where the benefits and protections available through agricultural districting and other planning tools may not be sufficient to overcome local development pressure and other issues affecting farmland.

Guidance Documents

County Farmland Protection Planning Grants

State assistance payments are available for counties to cover up to 50 percent of the costs to develop agricultural and farmland protection plans. Several grants of up to $50,000 each are awarded on a rolling basis each year to counties that formally apply pursuant to 1NYCRR Part 390. Since the inception of this program in 1994, the Department has awarded over $2 million to 48 counties across the State. Counties interested in planning grant funds should contact David Behm at david.behm@agriculture.ny.gov.

Purchase of Development Rights Grants

State assistance payments are available to counties or municipalities to cover up to 75% of the total costs for implementation activities to protect viable farmland. These grants are awarded pursuant to a Request for Proposals (RFP). The RFP contains eligibility guidelines and criteria by which all projects are scored and ranked for funding. Since the inception of this program in 1996, the Department has awarded nearly $80 million to protect approximately 36,000 acres on 200 farms in 18 counties.

In 2004, a total of 43 municipalities requested more than $86 million under this highly competitive grants program, and a total of $12.5 million in Environmental Protection Fund resources were awarded to 15 municipalities to purchase the development rights on 20 farms. This continues a trend of rapidly escalating interest in the use of conservation easements among municipalities and farm owners to protect farmland since this grants program was initiated.

Conservation Easements

Title 3, Article 49 of the New York State Environmental Conservation Law allows for the creation or conveyance of a conservation easement on real property.  A conservation easement is a legal document written in the form of a deed, in which a landowner permanently restricts the future development of real property for the purpose of preserving or maintaining the scenic, open, historic, agricultural, or natural condition, character, significance or amenities of that property.  Under the State’s Farmland Protection Program, agricultural conservation easements must be held, monitored and enforced, in perpetuity, by a public body (e.g. a county or town) and/or a qualified conservation organization, such as a land trust, which has the authority to acquire interests in real property.  Any amendments to an easement funded under this program must be in keeping with the stated agricultural purposes of the easement and must be approved by the Department. Click here to view the Standard Agricultural Conservation Easement.

Related Links

Federal Farmland Protection Program