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New York Ag News Headlines
Ball Announces $250,000 to Advance NYS Farmland Protection
New York Ag Connection - 04/05/2018

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball announced nearly $250,000 has been awarded to seven land trusts to implement or improve local farmland protection strategies that will benefit farms and communities across the state. These grants will be used to help provide greater land access to current and future farmers, and to educate landowners about programs available to protect their properties from conversion to non-farm uses. These grants are part of a slate of new funding opportunities outlined in Governor Cuomo's 2017 State of the State address to enhance regional collaboration on farmland conservation projects.

"Preserving our farmland is one of our best tools for maintaining a vibrant agricultural industry, which has been the foundation of our State's economy for decades," Ball said. "These grants will make it easier for farmers to find affordable properties and will provide landowners with valuable information to protect their land from being developed. Land trusts and local governments play a crucial role in these efforts and I thank them for making farmland a priority in their communities."

The Land Trust Grants Program provides financial assistance to not-for-profit conservation organizations to assist regional and local governments with their farmland protection efforts. Using existing or newly developed land inventories, the awarded land trusts will work together with towns and counties to begin or expand outreach to landowners willing to lease or sell their properties to farmers, and to match those farmers with agricultural land best suited for their operation. The funding will also be used to inform landowners of opportunities to protect their properties from development pressures.

The following projects were awarded:

Capital Region Columbia Land Conservancy -- To accelerate a highly successful farmer to farmland matching program started in 2009; $50,000

Capital Region Saratoga P.L.A.N. -- To improve awareness and collaboration of farmland conservation efforts within Saratoga County; $50,000

Capital Region Agricultural Stewardship Association -- To update and tailor outreach materials for ongoing farmland access activities in Rensselaer and Washington Counties; $21,010

Central New York/ Finger Lakes New York Agricultural Land Trust -- To accelerate land access outreach to farmers and landowners in Cayuga and Seneca Counties and update inventories of viable farmland; $20,600

Long Island Peconic Land Trust -- To initiate strategic outreach in the Towns of Riverhead and Southampton; $50,000

Mid- Hudson Dutchess Land Conservancy -- To promote new collaborative initiatives and accelerate farmland access within Dutchess County; $32,759

Mohawk Valley Otsego Land Trust -- To initiate farmland protection efforts and accelerate land access outreach within Otsego County; $24,560

A second round of funding will be made available later this year. Additional details are available at https://www.agriculture.ny.gov/ap/agservices/fp_landtrust_grants.html.

Ethan Winter, New York senior program manager, Land Trust Alliance, said, "We commend Governor Cuomo, Commissioner Ball and the state Department of Agriculture and Markets for making this strategic investment. These funds build upon New York's national leadership in supporting private land conservation and in local and regional efforts to accelerate farmland protection around the state. The Alliance also applauds the dedication of land trusts to partner and collaborate with local governments in support of hard-working families who love the land and wish to protect New York's working landscapes for future generations."

David Haight, New York director, American Farmland Trust, said, "Land trusts often play a key role in helping farmers protect their land, which can make farmland more affordable for a new farmer to purchase or enable a farm owner to transfer their land to the next generation. We appreciate the Department of Agriculture and Markets' support for land trusts to help them play greater roles in addressing these important needs across New York."

This new funding opportunity builds on two new initiatives that have expanded the scope of New York's Farmland Protection Implementation Grant Program. Early this month, Commissioner Ball announced that for the first time in the program's history, grants are being offered to exclusively help cover transaction costs associated with donating an agricultural conservation easement. $1 million is available to counties, municipalities, soil and water conservation districts, land trusts or other not-for-profit conservation organizations through this program.

In January, $5 million was made available to help local governments, land trusts and soil and water conservation districts implement Option Agreement Projects, which expedite the process of purchasing a perpetual conservation easement to safeguard at-risk farmland. In addition, the 2017-18 State Budget includes another $20 million for the broader Farmland Protection Implementation Grant Program, which will become available later this year.


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