December 5, 2019
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Announces New $14 Million Farmland Protection Initiative to Help New York Farms Maintain Long-term Viability

TOP Governor Cuomo Announces New $14 Million...

Provides Critical Financial Assistance to Keep Valuable Farmland in Production, Allow Diversification, and Ensure Long-Term Viability of Operations

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Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a new $14 million initiative to support and strengthen New York's agricultural industry. The new funding opportunity, part of the State's long-standing Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program, was created to address the threat of the conversion of viable agricultural land to non-farm development and help farms facing financial difficulties because of increased challenges resulting from trade disputes, increasing debt, changing consumer preferences and climate change. The grant program will assist eligible farmers with the acquisition of perpetual conservation easements on agricultural land, helping to keep valuable farmland in production, encourage diversification, and ensure the long-term viability of New York's farming operations.

 

"From climate change to the federal administration's irresponsible tariffs and trade wars, New York farmers have faced unprecedented hardships over the last few years, threatening the future of the farming industry," Governor Cuomo said. "The introduction of this new initiative under New York's Farmland Protection program offers farmers the opportunity to transition their farm to the next generation or diversify their operations to provide profitability and competition."

 

The agricultural industry in New York State and across the nation has faced a range of challenges in the marketplace in recent years including extreme weather, a continued down trend in certain markets, fewer exports, and unpredictability in prices. The proceeds resulting from the sale of a perpetual agricultural conservation easement through the Farm Operations in Transition Farmland Protection Initiative may provide the capital needed to assist with the farm's transition to:

 

  • The next ownership of a continuing farm operation, which will be or has been modified to ensure greater financial sustainability,
  • A more diversified overall farm operation, or
  • A different type of non-dairy farm operation.

 

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, "Building on the success of the Farmland Protection Dairy Transitions program, we are pleased to provide this additional opportunity for the many growers and producers who are dealing with today's economic challenges.  It is our hope that through these conservation easements, we can not only preserve our precious farmland but also provide our farmers the resources necessary to transition or diversify their operations and protect their livelihood."

 

New York Policy Manager of American Farmland Trust Samantha Levy said, "As more farmers near retirement age, and the challenges all farmers face to keep their businesses viable mount, the very future of farming in New York is at stake. This program is coming at just the right time—continuing to invest in our farms while permanently protecting irreplaceable, productive acres for future generations. American Farmland Trust applauds Governor Cuomo's investment in farmland protection, and looks forward to working with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets to get these important funds into the hands of the farm families that need relief now."

 

Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee Senator Jen Metzger said, "Land is our most precious resource in New York State, and a robust farmland protection program is important to ensuring that farmlands remain where they belong-in the hands of farmers. This funding opportunity under the Farmland Protection Grant Program is absolutely critical to supporting the continued viability of New York's farms by assisting with diversification and affordable succession for future generations of farmers."

 

Chair of the Committee on Agriculture Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo said, "Given the challenges faced by today's farmers, protecting their land is an essential part of New York's strategy to address agricultural sustainability. This latest round of grants focuses of farms that produce some of the nation's top commodities like dairy, maple, and apples, helping NY maintain its role as a national leader. Farmland protection also helps farms diversify and attract new farmers, both of which are essential to maintaining a strong agricultural economy in the future."

 

The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, which administers the Farmland Protection program, is issuing a Request for Applications for grants of up to $2 million each from eligible entities, such as land trusts, municipalities, county agricultural and farmland protection boards, and State Soil and Water Conservation Districts. There is no application deadline. A total of $14.25 million is available, with $2.85 million available within each of five Farmland Protection regions across the state.

Farms eligible for the grant opportunity include operations that use more than 50 percent of their acreage for production in one or more of the following agricultural sectors:

 

  • Beef cattle or hogs;
  • Certain cash grains (i.e., field corn, rye, soybeans, triticale, wheat, winter wheat, or oats), sunflower seeds, or alfalfa hay;
  • Certain fruits (i.e., apples, concord grapes, fresh grapes, or fresh sweet cherries) or hazelnuts;
  • Maple sap; or
  • Certain vegetables (i.e., cabbage, potatoes, snap beans or sweet corn).

 

All farmland protection project proposals must be submitted electronically through the New York State Grants Gateway. More information regarding the Grants Gateway, can be found here. Additional information and the RFA can be found on the Department's website here.

 

The Farm Operations in Transition Farmland Protection Initiative builds on New York State's continued land preservation efforts. In 2018, the State announced a record-breaking $35 million was awarded through the Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program to 40 farms across 19 counties to protect 13,000 acres of agricultural land throughout New York State. Since then, the Department has also awarded more than $30 million under the Dairy Transitions Farmland Protection Initiative and launched a second round of the program. Applications for the Dairy Transitions program are still being accepted and are available here.

 

In addition, the Department is administering additional grant opportunities to help keep farmland in agricultural production. The funding is helping applicants cover costs associated with obtaining and administering an Option Agreement Project, and cover transaction costs associated with donated agricultural conservation easements. Since the Governor took office in 2011, the state has invested more than $83 million in 117 farmland protection projects statewide. The state celebrated a major milestone in farmland protection in 2019, with more than 75,000 acres protected since the creation of the program.

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