20th Anniversary of the State's Farmland Protection Program
Governor Proposes Funding Increase for Program in 2016-17 Executive Budget
State Expands Actions to Streamline Application and Grant Process
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced $26 million is now available through the Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program to help farmers across New York State protect valuable and at-risk farmland. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the program which supports conservation easement projects. Since Governor Cuomo took office, the State has not only reinvigorated the program, but also committed historic funding levels to farmland preservation.
"Protecting New York's farmland is vital to the continued growth of this state's agricultural industry," Governor Cuomo said. "Agriculture is part of our rich history, as well as a major part of this state's current economy, and these investments will help ensure this industry's future strength."
The Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program is part of New York State's Environmental Protection Fund, which Governor Cuomo's 2016 Executive Budget proposal has more than doubled, raising the funding level to $300 million. The proposal also increases funding for farmland protection by $5 million. This increase builds on last year's historic investment in farmland protection, including the $20 million Hudson Valley Agricultural Enhancement Program, the first-ever regionally targeted farmland preservation grant program.
Municipalities, counties, soil and water conservation districts and land trusts are eligible to apply for individual grants through the program's Round 14 Request for Proposals to protect viable agricultural land from being converted to non-agricultural use. The application is available at www.agriculture.ny.gov/RFPS.html.
This funding opportunity continues the state's renewed commitment to provide financial assistance for farmland protection on a predictable two-year cycle. In addition, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets has taken further actions to streamline the application and grant disbursement process. Required forms needed to complete a project have been further reduced and clarified. Applicants are now allowed to submit up to six proposals per qualifying entity, and the $29,000-per-acre limitation on the state's contribution toward these projects has been removed, which eliminates a potential deterrent for some applicants.
The Department's previous streamlining measures have resulted in significant reductions in the overall time needed to complete projects. Three projects awarded in October 2014 were completed in less than one year. The process in previous rounds has averaged nearly four years.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Senator Patty Ritchie said, "There's a long list of what makes New York State an ideal place to start or expand a farm operation—however, one of our biggest assets is the availability of undeveloped farmland that’s just waiting to be cultivated by hardworking farmers. I've been proud to advocate for increased investments in farmland protection efforts, and am pleased that the state is taking steps to protect one of our most vital resources, which will help to ensure New York's agriculture industry continues to grow, create jobs and exist as a leader in our overall economy."
Chairman of the Assembly Agriculture Committee, Assemblyman Bill Magee said, "The agriculture industry in New York is rising, and the release of this funding, as we now recognize 20 years of the Farmland Protection Implementation Grant Program, will foster increased production and employment opportunities for New York farm businesses."
New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, "The Department is pleased to offer another round of grants that help preserve the most valuable resource that exists for farmers. As we mark the 20th year anniversary of the state's commitment to farmland protection this year and celebrate the contribution of agriculture to the state's economy, we reflect on the program’s successes— from a dramatically streamlined process for applicants to unprecedented levels of funding. The Governor's continued support of farmland preservation is having a significant impact in protecting and retaining the state’s farmland today for our future New York farmers."
New York State Director of the American Farmland Trust David Haight said, "2016 is a milestone year as it marks the 20th anniversary for the State of New York investing in permanently protecting the farmland needed to grow our farm economy and local food. Thanks to the leadership of Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature, New York is becoming one of the nation’s leading states in investing in the protection of working farmland. This significant state investment, combined with heightened attention to ensuring that participating farms are consistently protected in less than 2 years, is good for all eaters and future generations of farmers in New York."
New York Farm Bureau President Dean Norton said, "Farmland preservation is important to farmers looking to pass their operation along to the next generation. The grants allow them to reinvest into their businesses while also keeping vital land in production. This additional funding reaffirms the State’s commitment to the Environmental Protection Fund and the significant role it serves in safeguarding our natural resources."
During the past several years, the Department has been laying the groundwork for a more robust and diversified Agricultural and Farmland Protection Program that now offers grants to address a wider array of farmland protection initiatives that local governments have identified as important to their growth. Examples include small grants to revise local laws to remove unreasonable restrictions on farm operations and encourage municipalities to establish Transfer of Development Rights programs and lease of development rights.
Since 1996, New York State has awarded more than $140 million for 233 preservation projects that protect nearly 60,000 acres of farmland across the state.
Application materials, guidance documents, and important webinar information for the Round 14 Farmland Protection Implementation Grants Request for Proposals are available on the Department of Agriculture and Markets website at www.agriculture.ny.gov/RFPS.html.
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/.
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