State dedicates highest level of funding ever to accelerate protection of at-risk farmland
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced nearly $38 million is now available through the Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program to help farmers across New York protect valuable and at-risk farmland. Since Governor Cuomo took office, the state has reinvigorated the program and committed historic investments, including doubling the funding in this latest round from last year – marking the highest level of ever offered through the program.
“By investing in the sustainability and growth of New York’s farmland, we are protecting an important economic driver for communities across the state while providing opportunities for our agriculture industry to grow,” Governor Cuomo said. “This unprecedented $38 million commitment to land preservation will ensure New York’s vast farmland is used for agricultural purposes and remains protected for generations.”
Municipalities, counties, Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and land trusts are eligible to apply for individual grants of up to $2 million to help offset the costs of conservation easement projects that protect viable agricultural land from being converted to non-agricultural use. The Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program is funded through New York State’s Environmental Protection Fund, which was included in the State Budget at $300 million for the third consecutive year. The application deadline is August 31, 2018 and the Request for Proposals is available at .
“Protecting our farmland is vital to ensuring the continued growth of New York’s agricultural industry,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “Our farmers provide world-class products to consumers in New York communities and beyond. We’re committed to protecting and supporting agriculture with significant investments to expand opportunities and allow the industry to continue to flourish.”
Since the Governor took office in 2011, the state has invested more than $62 million in 82 farmland protection projects statewide. This funding opportunity continues the state’s commitment to provide financial and technical assistance for farmland protection on a predictable two-year cycle. The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets’ previous streamlining measures have resulted in significant reductions in the overall time needed to complete projects.
This year, to explore additional tools in preserving land for agricultural production, the state has included preemptive purchase rights as an eligible cost that may be partially covered through the grant program. This is the first time state financial assistance may be used toward this eligible project cost.
The Department has established certain criteria to guide the use of this unique easement provision in awarded projects. Preemptive purchase rights encourage agricultural land to remain in active production and to be sold to other farmers at its agricultural value. Certain requirements must be met in order for eligible applicants to use grant funding for these purchase rights, which will also provide a potential avenue for new and beginning farmers in acquiring land.
New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “The Department has made great strides in improving regional collaboration on its farmland preservation programs and ensuring we move the Farmland Protection program forward. We are pleased to make available nearly double the funding this year than we have in previous years and are committed to preserving our land base, which not only retains the state’s farmland for our future New York farmers but also helps protects our environment.”
Assembly Agriculture Committee Chair Bill Magee said, “New York State farmlands are critical to the well-being of local economies of our rural communities, and it is our responsibility to help maintain their ability to provide and contribute the services, goods, and products that we need. The Farmland Protection Implementation Grant Program helps us to sustain viable farmlands, so that they can carry on and keep the local farms strong and productive here in our communities.”
New York State Director of the American Farmland Trust David Haight said, “Protecting our most productive and resilient farmland is important for ensuring that food can be grown in New York for generations to come, and for combating climate change. These state funds have also proven to be a key strategy for helping farm families transfer their farms to a new generation of farmers. We applaud Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature for making such a significant commitment of funding to help farmers permanently protect their land, and ensuring that funded projects are completed quickly.”
New York Farm Bureau President Dave Fisher said, “The Farmland Protection grant funding works to keep farmers farming. Development pressure is one of the issues facing New York agriculture, and the latest round of funding is an important tool to help farmers preserve farmland for the next generation and reinvest into their family businesses.”
Round 16 of the Farmland Protection Program builds on New York State’s continued land preservation efforts. Earlier this year, the Department announced $5.5 million is available through two new grant opportunities, first announced in the Governor’s 2017 State of the State address, to help keep farmland in agricultural production. The funding will help applicants cover costs associated with obtaining and administering an Option Agreement Project. It will also help farmersidentify available land through the development of local land inventories, inform landowners of programs and opportunities to protect their properties from conversion to non-farm uses, and expand outreach efforts to better connect willing landowners with farmers interested in leasing or buying their properties for agricultural production.