May 15, 2018
In 1996, New York responded to the loss of precious farmland by establishing the Farmland Protection Program).
In 1996, New York responded to the loss of precious farmland by establishing the Farmland Protection Program). New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets administers the program that provides grant funds to eligible municipalities to purchase “conservation easements" also called development rights from farmers-- meaning the land can no longerbe sold for residential or commercial development. To qualify, counties and towns must have “agricultural and farmland protection” plans approved by the state.
The New York State Agricultural and Farmland Protection Program was formed under Article 25-AAA of the Agriculture and Markets law to protect ag-related lands and ensure a strong base for agriculture with necessary land resources. The Farmland Protection program, at the initial stage, helps counties and municipalities plan for the future of agriculture in their communities by providing grant funds to towns or counties to develop farmland protection plans. The Department of Agriculture and Markets also funds programs to implement those plans to keep agriculture strong and farmland in production, such as providing funding for farmland protection through the purchase of development rights and the use of conservation easements.
Hudson Valley farmland protection is a particularly poignant issue when one considers the ever-advancing threat of land development. How to cooperatively interconnect commercial, industry, residential, mixed use and agriculture in the highly desirable Hudson Valley communities, while maintaining a strong agricultural presence and character is a delicate dance—particularly when the access to local foods, agri-tourism and the very bucolic views that farmlands offer draws more population to it-- thus the green spaces become endangered by their own beauty.
HVADC has served multiple essential roles in developing farmland protection plans throughout the Hudson Valley region, having offered guidance and assistance on agricultural economic development issues for the updating of Sullivan, Washington, Dutchess, Orange counties, and serving as the lead consulting agency in writing the Farmland Protection Plan for Columbia. HVADC Executive Director Todd Erling, serves on the plan Implementation Committee for Dutchess and Washington counties, and Deputy Director, Mary Ann Johnson is a member of Orange County’s Implementation committee.
“HVADC commends the efforts of the counties in adopting farmland protection plans that address issues beyond the statutory requirements to identify farmland to protect and implementing strategies to accomplish the land protection goals. There is a new understanding and appreciation of economic conditions in the agricultural industry and all of the plans include an element to support economic development for agriculture and agribusiness”, stated Erling.
The American Farmland Trust (AFT) report, Planning for Agriculture in New York, outlines the benefits and impact of implementing a farmland protection plan as a myriad of economic, fiscal, health/nutrition, scenic, tourism, environmental, cultural and recreation. AFT characterizes one aspect of the process as balancing community interest with private property rights, and encourages communities writing or updating their farmland protection plans to make agriculture a priority in a community’s vision for the future. Carefully reviewing “unreasonably restrictive local ordinances” also ensures a smoother ride for a farmer.
HVADC helped to coordinate several meetings with leadership teams working on the Dutchess, Orange and Sullivan county plans which were being updated simultaneously from 2013-2015, so that the neighboring counties could explore a regional perspective of the planning process. These meetings allowed the planners to discuss issues being encountered in the individual counties and fostered a conversation about how these issues were being addressed and whether or not a regional solution might be developed.
HVADC was also the lead agency for Columbia County’s farmland plan in 2011-2013, for which both Erling and Johnson considered it to be an honor to serve such an intrinsic role in planning for HVADC’s home county. Johnson explained that HVADC, working in partnership with the Columbia Land Conservancy, was responsible for the surveying, data collection, community outreach and drafting a plan in coordination with the Columbia County Agriculture & Farmland Protection Board, and the support of Columbia County Department of Planning.
For more information, please check out HVADC’s partners page, https://www.hvadc.org/partner-organizations.
Photo Source: US Department of Agriculture