News Date: 01/24/2008

       New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker recently announced nearly $500,000 in funding to help 21 towns develop local agricultural and farmland protection plans. This is the first time that towns and cities were eligible to apply for farmland protection planning grants; only counties have been eligible in the past. 

       "One of the most important roles of a municipality is the regulation of land use," Hooker said. "This responsibility gives them the authority and opportunity to provide a supportive environment for agriculture. I applaud these 19 towns for taking the initiative to address evolving land use issues in their area and plan for the protection of viable and active farmland. It is their participation in the planning process and commitment to providing a supportive business environment for agriculture that will make smart growth a reality here in New York State."

       New York's Farmland Protection Program provides two funding sources--planning grants and implementation grants. Planning grants are being announced today and include a portion of the start-up funds in developing an agricultural and farmland protection plan. The implementation grants are used to help purchase the development rights on viable farmland.

       The planning grants provide local municipalities with an economic incentive to develop local agricultural and farmland protection plans. These plans help maintain the economic viability of the State's agricultural industry and its supporting land base and to protect the environmental and landscape preservation values associated with agriculture. 

       Any municipality, including cities, towns and villages, that are located within a county which has established an agricultural and farmland protection board, are eligible for farmland protection planning funds. These funds can provide up to $25,000 or 75 percent of the cost of developing a local protection plan, which ever is less. 

       Farmland protection plans should identify the location of farmland proposed to be protected, the value of that land to the local economy, the value of that land as open space, consequences of possible conversion, and the level of conversion pressure on the proposed land. To date, 48 counties have farmland protection plans in place.

       Last month, Governor Eliot Spitzer announced nearly $35 million for farmland protection implementation grants; the largest amount of funding and greatest number of acres protected in the program's eleven year history. With that announcement, New York has allocated more than $144.5 million out of the Environmental Protection Fund for farmland protection projects, assisting local governments and their project partners in 26 counties to help protect 50,400 acres on 241 farms. To date, only half of those project contracts have closed, protecting in perpetuity, 27,500 acres of farmland.

       New York State has 7.6 million acres of farmland with 35,000 farms.   (Contact: Jessica A. Chittenden, 518/457-3136)