Farmland protection grants support NY dairy farms

NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets

$2.8M provided in support of conservation easement projects on two NY dairy farms

The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets today announced more than $2.8 million has been provided in support of conservation easement projects on two New York dairy farms. Dairy farmers continue to face challenges from prolonged low milk prices, increasing the threat of conversion of viable agricultural land to non-farm development. The Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program is helping to ensure dairy farms the opportunity to diversify their operations or transition their farms to the next generation at more affordable costs, while ensuring the land forever remains used for agricultural purposes. The funding builds on the nearly $8.5 million awarded in December 2018 to permanently protect five dairy farms in the Finger Lakes, Mid-Hudson Valley and Central New York regions.

More than $12 million in funding for the program is still available and the Department is encouraging its partners across the State to apply. Additional information can be found on the Department’s website at https://www.agriculture.ny.gov/RFPS.html.

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “I am pleased to see this funding awarded to two additional dairies in our State. These awards will help these farms diversify their operations while they continue to produce quality milk for our communities. The program is critical to providing some relief to our State’s dairy farmers who continue to face challenges in this difficult marketplace. We encourage our eligible partners to apply for the program and protect our agricultural lands for future generations.”

Protecting the agricultural land base of an operating dairy farm from conversion to non-farm use is essential to the long-term viability and sustainability of New York’s agricultural industry. New York’s dairy industry is the largest sector of the State’s agricultural industry and a critical component of its economy, accounting for approximately one-half of New York State’s on-farm production, agricultural support services and value-added products. New York State is home to approximately 4,500 dairy farms with 620,000 cows, producing 14.9 billion pounds of milk. New York ranks third in the production of milk and is first in the nation in the production of other dairy products, such as yogurt and cottage cheese.

The projects awarded are:

  • Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust – $1,707,834 was awarded for the conservation of Terrance Jones Dairy Farm, located in the Town of Trenton, Oneida County.  This is the first-ever Farmland Protection award made to an Oneida County farm. Permanently protecting 740 acres, the award will help Terrance Jones Dairy Farm undergo a transition to a more diversified farm operation while still operating, in part, as a dairy.
  • Finger Lakes Land Trust – $1,140,769 was awarded for the conservation of the Barber Farm, located in the Towns of Hector and Montour, Schuyler County.  This project will protect 513 acres and allow the Barber Farm to continue as a dairy while it undergoes a transition to a more diversified farm operation.

In July 2018, the State made available $30 million in funding to support farmland protection conservation projects on dairy farms. In December, the Department awarded five farms nearly $8.5 million.

The state continues to accept applications on a rolling basis for farmland protection grants of up to $2 million from eligible entities, such as land trusts, municipalities, counties, and soil and water conservation districts. There is no application deadline.

Conservation easement projects will be awarded to eligible dairy farms that are:

  • Transitioning to the next ownership of a continuing dairy, but whose operation has been modified to ensure greater financial sustainability;
  • Continuing dairy, but diversifying the overall farm operation; or
  • Converting to a non-dairy farm operation.

All farmland protection project proposals must be submitted electronically through the New York State Grants Gateway. For more information regarding the Grants Gateway, please visit https://grantsgateway.ny.gov. Additional information and the RFA can be found on the Department’s website at https://www.agriculture.ny.gov/RFPS.html.

“Farmland preservation can be a valuable program to keep land in production for the next generation. It can be especially important in today’s farm economy to provide families an outlet to remain in the dairy business, while also exploring value-added or diversification opportunities in our State’s large agricultural community,” said David Fisher, New York Farm Bureau President.

“The Dairy Transitions program came at just the right time for dairy farmers in New York, providing a real opportunity to help these farms remain viable at a time when the dairy industry really needs help,” said Samantha Levy, New York Policy Manager for American Farmland Trust. “AFT applauds the Governor and the Department of Agriculture and Markets for creating this rolling program to help our dairy farmers. Not only will these funds help ensure a strong future for these farms now, but they will contribute to a strong future for agriculture in New York by protecting these acres from development forever.”

The Farmland Protection Program for dairy builds on New York State’s continued land preservation efforts. In 2018, the State announced a record-breaking $35 million was awarded through the Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program to 40 farms across 19 counties to protect 13,000 acres of agricultural land throughout New York State.

In addition, the Department announced $5.5 million is also available through two grant opportunities to help keep farmland in agricultural production. The funding will help applicants cover costs associated with obtaining and administering an Option Agreement Project, for which $5 million is available, and it will also cover transaction costs associated with donated agricultural conservation easements, for which the remaining $500,000 is available.  Since the Governor took office in 2011, the state has invested more than $76 million in 107 farmland protection projects statewide.

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