Farmland Preservation Program

Administering Agency

Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture

Purpose

The purpose of this program is to slow the loss of prime farmland to non-agricultural uses. The program enables state, county and local governments to purchase conservation easements, or development rights from owners of quality farmland.

Who Can Participate

Counties

How it Works

Fifty-seven participating county programs receive state funds for the purchase of agricultural conservation easements. Counties participating in the program have appointed agricultural land preservation boards with a state board created to oversee this program. The state board is responsible for distribution of state funds, approval and monitoring of county programs and specific easement purchases.

Farm owners apply to the county program and farm applications are ranked and then forwarded to the state board for approval after offers have been made. To date, more than 400,000 acres have been permanently protected. Each farm is rated against other eligible parcels according to the following criteria:

•      Quality of the Farmland. State regulations require that easements be purchased on farms of a minimum of 50 acres in size or at least 35 acres if a county adopts to allow farms of that size into their program. Parcels as small as 10 acres may be preserved if adjacent to existing preserved farmland or used for the production of crops unique to the area. At least half the tract must either be harvested cropland, pasture or grazing land and it must contain 50 percent soil capability, classes I-IV.

•      Stewardship. Farms are rated on the use of conservation practices and best management practices of nutrient management and control of soil erosion and sedimentation.

•      Likelihood of Conversion. Easements offered for sale to counties will be scored and ranked for acquisition based on a variety of factors such as:

o   Proximity of farm to sewer and water lines.

o   Extent and type of non -agricultural uses nearby.

o   Amount and type of agricultural use in the vicinity.

o   The amount of other preserved farmland in close proximity.

Farmers may choose to receive the proceeds from easement sales in a lump sum payment, installments up to five years, or on a long-term installment basis. Many farmers use the proceeds from easement sales to reduce debt loads, expand operations and pass on farms to the next generation.

How to Get More Information

Contact Doug Wolfgang

717-787-1079x3015

Visit the PA Dept. of Agriculture Easement Purchase page

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