Bill helps keep protected farmland affordable and in the hands of farmers
In an effort to support New York’s existing farmers and farmland for future generations, Assemblymember Didi Barrett (D-Columbia, Dutchess) announced that Governor Cuomo has signed her legislation, A.10301-B, into law. The new law will strengthen the State’s Farmland Protection Implementation Grant Program by making working farm easements permanently eligible for state funding, thereby increasing access to affordable land for future generations of farmers.
“Ensuring working farms pass from one generation to the next is one of the best ways to maintain our state's proud agricultural heritage. With the enactment of the Working Farm Protection Act, state assistance payments toward this goal are now a permanent option and have strengthened our existing farmland protection laws. As the sponsor of this legislation, I want to thank the National Young Farmers Coalition, Senator Patty Ritchie for sponsoring the bill in the Senate, and all our farming advocates for their great support of this bill. I am proud to be part of New York’s ongoing commitment to investing in working farms in every corner of our state," said Assemblymember Barrett.
The Working Farm Protection Act comes at a critical time as farmland values are on the rise and New York’s agricultural land is being lost to non-farmer owners. According to USDA data, average New York farm real estate prices rose by 124 percent between 1997 and 2016. Non-farmer interest in farmland not only impacts real estate prices, but, according to American Farmland Trust, has also resulted in an estimated loss of three farms per week over the last thirty years.
While traditional agricultural easements successfully protect farmland from development and are an important financial tool for established farmers, easements funded under this new law will also ensure that future farmers can own and operate conserved land by keeping it affordable at the time of sale. Unlike traditional easements, where land can be sold to a non-farmer, the voluntary easements promoted by the Working Farm Protection Act would require farmers to sell their farm to another working farmer. These easements have been the key to transitioning hundreds of farmers in Massachusetts and Vermont, and are being used by an increasing number of New York land trusts.
“The Working Farm Protection Act is important for farmers young and old,” said David Fisher, President of the New York Farm Bureau. Farms in some areas of the state, like the Hudson Valley and Long Island, are facing major development pressure, which is driving up land prices. In turn, this makes it more difficult for new farmers to purchase affordable farmland. With the Governor’s signature, farmers have an additional tool to keep farmland in production for the next generation while also receiving fair compensation for their property through the voluntary easements.”
“The Working Farm Protection Act is about one thing – standing with farmers. We can no longer assume that protecting farmland will also protect the people who work it,” said Lindsey Lusher Shute, Executive Director of the National Young Farmers Coalition and co-owner of Hearty Roots Community Farm in Clermont. “This bill is an important step towards making New York State farmland affordable for working farmers. We are grateful for the Governor’s support, and the leadership of Assemblymember Barrett and Senator Ritchie.”