Agreement benefits state's preservation program that preserved 22 farms, nearly 2,000 additional acres this month
Harrisburg, PA - An agreement between the federal Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) and Pennsylvania’s nation-leading farmland preservation program will again give the state access to millions of federal dollars to help preserve the state’s best and most threatened farmland.
Pennsylvania has been without a cooperative agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) since 2014 when the last Farm Bill became law, changing the terms of the federal program.
“Our commonwealth’s farmland preservation program has served as a model for the nation, and this agreement is further proof of how we meet the needs of our producers and county preservation programs,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “When the new ACEP program was introduced, we immediately realized that the regulations were significantly different than the Federal Farm and Ranchlands Protection Program it replaced. We knew that it would take lots of work to find a common ground that met federal requirements without jeopardizing the integrity of our state-run program, but after two years, many conference calls and plenty of meetings, we have a final product that works for all involved.”
Each change in federal program regulations requires a new agreement, as some aspects of the federal and state programs are otherwise incompatible. Conflicts with ACEP included differing subdivision requirements, permitted oil and gas activities, building envelope requirements, deed of merger language, and baseline documentation reports.
“So many aspects of the ACEP program were in direct conflict with what Pennsylvania carefully and deliberately developed in our regulations that many were doubtful that a solution could ever be found,” said Redding. “There were a number of people involved in this process, and thanks to their collective efforts, the agreement was signed and more of our most productive and at-risk farms will remain in agricultural production.”
The agreement came a week before the Pennsylvania Agricultural Land Preservation Board safeguarded an additional 22 farms and 1,998 acres during its October board meeting. The board preserved farms in 10 counties: Adams, Berks, Chester, Dauphin, Erie, Indiana, Lancaster, Lebanon, Monroe, and Northampton.
The Pennsylvania Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Program identifies properties and slows the loss of prime farmland to non-agricultural uses. It enables state, county and local governments to purchase conservation easements, also called development rights, from owners of quality farmland. Since the program began in 1988, federal, state, county and local governments have invested more than $1.3 billion to preserve 5,025 farms on 527,000 acres of prime Pennsylvania farmland – the most of any state in the nation.
“With an estimated 1,500 farms on county lists waiting for the opportunity to be preserved, every funding tool is an important one for securing our farms,” added Redding. “We’re pleased that we can again offer federal funding as an option in the toolkit for producers and county program staff when working to preserve farms.”
The cooperative agreement also will allow seven farms and 651 acres to be preserved using $1,033,550 from ACEP at future preservation board meetings.
Since the federal conservation program’s establishment in 1996, PDA and USDA have signed 12 different cooperative agreements. In that time, more than $30 million in federal funds have been allocated for preservation of Pennsylvania agricultural lands.
For more information on the state’s farmland preservation program, visit www.agriculture.pa.gov, and click “Encourage,” then “Farmland Preservation.”
The William and Joy Weaver farm, a 117.17-acre crop and livestock operation
The David and Rebecca Kreider farm #1, a 150.2-acre crop and livestock operation
The Jeffrey Stoltz farm #1, a 48.9-acre crop farm
The Mark and Joan Wicks farm #1, a 21.4-acre crop and livestock operation
The Omar and Sylvia King farm, an 80.59-acre crop farm
The Austin and Casara Keiffer farm #1, a 72.31-acre crop farm
The Douglas and Shirley Landis farm #1, a 125.81-acre crop farm
The Neil and Sally Snyder farm #1, a 180.84-acre crop farm
The Timothy and Tammy Wentzel farm, an 84.56-acre crop farm
The Harwood Farms, Inc. farm #1, a 269.45-acre crop farm
The George and Virginia Clawson farm #1, a 122-acre crop and livestock operation
The Nelson and Mary Ginder farm, a 44.33-acre crop farm
The Stanley and Susan Godshall farm, a 41.77-acre crop farm
The Kettering, et al farm, a 53.05-acre crop farm
The Edward and Debra Sumpman farm, a 34.26-acre crop and livestock operation
The Donald Krall farm, a 120.41-acre crop and livestock operation
The Leonard Borger farm, a 53.74-acre crop farm
The Scott Gould farm, an 86.62-acre crop and livestock operation
The Robert and Tracy Serfass farm, a 26.6-acre crop farm
The Greggo, et al farm #1, a 107.92-acre crop farm
The Greggo, et al farm #2, a 109.15-acre crop and livestock operation
The Greggo, et al farm #3, a 47.39-acre crop farm
MEDIA CONTACT: Will Nichols - 717-787-5085
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