First-ever regionally targeted farmland protection grant program provides funding for strategic preservation of agricultural lands
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the awarding of $20 million in grants through the Hudson Valley Agricultural Enhancement Program to help local farmers protect valuable, at-risk farmland from future development and maintain the land’s use for agricultural purposes. This unprecedented commitment is the state’s first-ever regionally targeted farmland conservation grant program. It will protect more than 5,600 acres of active farmland on 28 farms in seven counties through permanent conservation easements.
“Agriculture remains a key driver of our economy, and I am proud that we are continuing to support and protect New York farmers throughout the Hudson Valley,” said Governor Cuomo. “This program provides vital resources to ensure these farmlands can remain in agricultural use today and in the years ahead. I am pleased we are awarding funding to these important projects, and I look forward to seeing them thrive for seasons to come.”
Hudson Valley Agricultural Enhancement Program
The Hudson Valley Agricultural Enhancement Program provides funding to local partners, such as municipalities, counties, soil and water conservation districts and land trusts, to help landowners in the region protect viable farmland from being used for purposes other than farming. It will protect more than 5,600 acres of active farmland. Sixty percent of that land has been designated by Scenic Hudson as a priority to protect in the Hudson Valley/ New York City Foodshed, which helps feed millions of people in that area.
According to a report from Scenic Hudson entitled “Securing Fresh, Local Food for New York City and the Hudson Valley: A Foodshed Conservation Plan for the Region,” New York City has an estimated $600 million or more of unmet demand for regionally produced food each year, with substantial demand coming from underserved communities. Farms in the Hudson Valley provide the majority of food (approximately 90 percent) to GrowNYC Greenmarkets and also are significant suppliers to restaurants, groceries and other food outlets.
This grant program funds a wide variety of farm operations including produce farms, and dairy and cattle operations. It has been widely supported by a diverse group of financing partners whose involvement will enable some beginning farmers to buy portions of this protected farmland at an affordable price.
For purposes of this grant, the Hudson Valley is defined as Albany, Columbia, Dutchess, Greene, Orange, Putnam, Rensselaer, Rockland, Saratoga, Schenectady, Sullivan, Ulster, Washington and Westchester counties.
- Columbia County: $4.16 million (5 projects)
- Saratoga County: $3.14 million (7 projects)
- Dutchess County: $3.01 million (4 projects)
- Orange County: $2.83 million (4 projects)
- Rensselaer County: $2.55 million (4 projects)
- Westchester County: $1.84 million (1 project)
- Washington County: $860,000 (3 projects)
A detailed list of projects is available here. The program is administered by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. The Department received a tremendous response to this program, with 42 proposals requesting a little more than $27 million. Projects that were not awarded through the Hudson Valley Agricultural Enhancement Program may apply for funding through the statewide Farmland Protection Implementation Program, which was announced on March 14, 2016.
Farmland Protection Implementation Program
This year also marks the 20th anniversary of New York’s statewide Farmland Protection Implementation Program, which has helped protect nearly 60,000 acres of farmland across the state. That program is funded through the state’s Environmental Protection Fund, which was increased to $300 million as part of the 2016-17 state budget – more than double from when Governor Cuomo first took office, and the highest level in the fund’s history.
Application materials, guidance documents, and important webinar information for the Round 14 Farmland Protection Implementation Grants Request for Proposals are available here. The deadline to submit proposals is June 13, 2016.
All farmland protection project proposals must be submitted electronically through the New York State Grants Gateway. For more information regarding the Grants Gateway, please click here.
During the last 25 years, the state has lost almost half a million acres of farmland to subdivisions, strip malls and other development.
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said: “Preserving farmland in the Hudson Valley is particularly important because of its proximity to the world’s largest market place, New York City. This grant program is essential to ensuring food security for the millions of people living there. It also builds on the success of the Farmland Implementation Grant Program which has already helped safeguard thousands of acres of agricultural land across the state.”
Senator Patty Ritchie, Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said: “When it comes to further growing our state’s agriculture industry, available farmland is our biggest asset. Through these grants, we are helping to protect farmland and ensure it remains undeveloped so our hardworking farmers can use it to expand their businesses, create jobs and strengthen our overall agriculture economy.”
Senator Terrence Murphy said: "From the days of my childhood, I can remember visits to Stuart's farm with my four siblings. It has been a part of our community for generations. This has been a decade in the making and I am proud to partner with the Westchester Land Trust and the Town of Somers to finally deliver this farmland protection grant. The preservation of Stuart's Farm was of the highest priority and we now have ensured it will remain as one of the most important agricultural, environmental and economic resources in the lower Hudson Valley."
Assemblyman Bill Magee said: “Protecting farmland in the Hudson Valley helps maintain the viability of agriculture across our state. These new conservation easements will ensure farmers continue to have access to the land they need to create good jobs, provide local food and protect the region’s scenic beauty for generations to come. This program builds upon our state’s recent successes in cutting red tape and taxes so farmers can continue to grow our economy.”
David Haight, New York State Director for the American Farmland Trust, said: “We applaud Governor Cuomo for rejuvenating the state’s Farmland Protection Program and moving New York to a position of national leadership in permanent farmland protection. Protecting fertile soil from being paved over is good not only for the farmers of today, but for tomorrow too. Funding for purchase of development rights programs such as this provides a financially competitive option for senior farmers who are seeking to retire but do not want to sell their farmland to a developer. Helping farmers and their communities conserve irreplaceable agricultural land makes it possible for hundreds of new farmers to find a farm to call their own.”
Christopher Kelder, New York Farm Bureau District 10 State Director, said: “The Hudson Valley faces some of the most extreme development pressures in the state. We are pleased to see these funds used to protect farmland for future generations and to ensure that New York farmers can continue to provide our communities with the fresh, healthy and local food they have come to expect.”
Renee Bouplon, Associate Director of the Agricultural Stewardship Association, said: “We are thrilled that the state awarded our applications. These awarded farms showcase the diversity and strength of the agricultural sector in the Hudson Valley, including Washington and Rensselaer counties, and we applaud Governor Cuomo, the State Legislature and the Department of Agriculture and Markets for their efforts to continue to invest in the agricultural economy. The importance of conserving these farms is more than just securing the land base for the next generation of farmers, it’s about food security, economic development and the vibrancy of our local communities. These farm families are committed to farmland conservation because they are committed to the future of farming. They inspire us with their love of the land and their desire to ensure that future generations can also work the soil and put food on our tables.”
Steve Rosenberg, Senior Vice President of Scenic Hudson, Executive Director of the Scenic Hudson Land Trust, and author of Securing Fresh, Local Food for New York City and the Hudson Valley: A Foodshed Conservation Plan for the Region said: “Governor Cuomo’s commitment to farmland protection continues to place him in the forefront of environmental leaders nationwide. Smart, focused investments like this one create jobs, secure our irreplaceable farmlands and their capacity to produce fresh, local food; safeguard the rural character of our communities that is vital to our tourism industry; and increase the viability of the region’s agricultural economy. Scenic Hudson is proud to partner with New York State and the Hudson Valley’s agricultural and land trust community on this initiative.”
Peter Paden, Executive Director of the Columbia Land Conservancy, said: “We are pleased and honored that so many wonderful farm projects have been awarded funding through the Hudson Valley Agricultural Enhancement Program in our County. We are grateful to the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, and to our farmland protection project partner Scenic Hudson Land Trust. We are also especially glad to have been able to partner with Equity Trust on two of the awarded projects, and credit all of the farmers who have been awarded funding through this program for their vision and commitment to protecting our region’s agricultural future.”
Maria Trabka, Executive Director of Saratoga PLAN, said: "We're very appreciative of the state, county, town, and private funding enabling Saratoga PLAN and Saratoga County to undertake these farmland conservation projects. Protecting these six farms, 961 acres, providing a critical land base for 7 farm operations, will ensure a secure source of locally produced food for the future in Saratoga County, the fastest growing county in New York State.”
Art Collings, Vice President for Land Conservation with the Dutchess Land Conservancy, said: "Preserving farmland in Dutchess County and the Hudson Valley is vital part of ensuring that Agriculture remains a part of our economy and landscape in the coming years. The NYS Department of Agriculture’s Farmland Protection Program is critical to Agriculture in Dutchess County, and has played a key role in helping Dutchess Land Conservancy and our project partners to protect thousands of acres of working farmland. We are extremely grateful for this program, and for the farms it is helping.”
Lori Ensinger, President of the Westchester Land Trust, said: “Farms remain an important part of the landscape and economy of Westchester County and one of the features that make our region so special. The selection of Stuart’s Fruit Farm for a 2016 Hudson Valley Agricultural Enhancement Program Award enables the Westchester Land Trust (WLT) and its partners to work with the Stuart family to permanently conserve a threatened resource. First and foremost we recognize Bob Stuart, Mary Lee Stuart Gerlach and the entire Stuart family for their commitment to responsible husbandry of their land and its protection forever. We also thank our project partners – Westchester County, the Town of Somers, Scenic Hudson, and the Somers Land Trust, who have all made preserving this historic farm a priority. This grant award from NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets is recognition of the importance of this farm to the broader community and deeply gratifying to us all.”