Grants Announced During Capital Region Regional Sustainable Development and Collaborative Governance Conference
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced $6.3 million has been awarded to nine projects to help protect 2,764 acres of at-risk farmland in the Capital Region. Funded through the Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program, and announced during the Governor’s Capital Region Regional Sustainable Development Conference, the projects support the preservation of farmland for agricultural use and protect it from degradation through the use of perpetual conservation easements.
"The continued strength of New York’s agricultural industry is essential to our economy,” Governor Cuomo said. “This funding will support the next-generation of Capital Region farmers, preserve our natural resources, and continue to strengthen the industry for generations to come.”
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Farmland Protection program, and under Governor Cuomo's leadership, the state has not only reinvigorated the initiative, but also committed unprecedented funding for farmland preservation. The grant program is part of New York State's Environmental Protection Fund, which was allocated a record-level $300 million in the FY 2017 State Budget. Funding for the program increased by $5 million this year. Since 2011, the State has invested more than $62 million for 82 projects statewide.
"As Lieutenant Governor, I travel the State and spend considerable time in rural communities. I see first-hand how strategic investments in agriculture help lift our economy as a whole," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who made the announcement at Governor Cuomo’s Sustainable Development Conference. "In the Capital Region and across New York, we must continue to protect precious farmland so our agricultural footprint can grow and so our producers can thrive for generations to come."
The Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program is administered through the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. Municipalities, counties, soil and water conservation districts and not-for-profit conservation organizations, or land trusts, were eligible to apply for individual grants under the Round 14 Farmland Protection Implementation Grants competitive Request for Proposals. Farms protected under the program remain taxable.
Agricultural Stewardship Association - $2,433,452
The Agricultural Stewardship Association was awarded more than $2.4 million for three projects in Rensselaer County and one project in Washington County.
Columbia Land Conservancy - $2,372,828
The Columbia Land Conservancy was awarded nearly $2.4 million for three projects in Columbia County.
Saratoga PLAN - $1,519,065
Saratoga PLAN was awarded more than $1.5 million for two projects in Saratoga County.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Senator Patty Ritchie said, "Agriculture is one of New York’s leading industries, and if we want it to remain that way, we need to take steps to protect the land used by our hardworking farmers for growing crops and other farming activities. I have been proud to advocate for funding of this program, and would like to thank the Governor for recognizing how key it is to ensuring that agriculture continues boost our economy, create jobs and have a bright future in New York State."
Assembly Agriculture Committee Chair Bill Magee said, "It is imperative that viable farmlands remain in use by the farmers, growers, and producers of food and agricultural products we all need and enjoy. This commitment will assist landowners to protect the land, while helping to grow the agricultural economy in New York State."
New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, "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. The projects awarded today will ensure the diversity of New York agriculture and, in many cases, will help farmers upgrade their operations."
New York State Director of the American Farmland Trust David Haight said, "We applaud Governor Cuomo, Commissioner Ball and the State Legislature in moving aggressively to invest more state dollars in farmland conservation and maintain its commitment to completing state-funded farmland conservation projects more quickly. On the 20th Anniversary of state funding for permanently protecting farmland in New York, it is clear that these resources are critical to things New Yorkers care about – ensuring our ability to grow food locally, strengthening our economy and bringing a new generation of farmers on to the land. These state investments are as important today as when this program began two decades ago."
New York Farm Bureau President Dean Norton said, "Farmland Protection grants play an important role in preserving farms for the next generation. Not only does the program keep prime farmland in production, it also frees up funds for a farmer to reinvest into his or her operation to grow their business. New York Farm Bureau appreciates the State’s commitment to this valuable program."
Earlier this fall, the Governor announced funding for Round 14 Farmland Protection Implementation Grant projects in the Finger Lakes, Central New York, Western New York and the North Country, and the Mid-Hudson region. The grants awarded total approximately $24 million and will help protect more than 11,860 acres of active farmland on 29 farms in 17 counties across the State – nearly double the acreage protected in 2014.
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.