Over $6 million will go toward protecting 2,000 acres of farmland in New York through the Farmland Protection Implementation Grants Program, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Thursday.
“Protecting our state’s farmland is a critical component not only to protecting our environment but also maintaining the viability of the state’s agricultural industry for generations to come,” Hochul said in a press release.
New York has lost 253,500 acres of agricultural land to development between 2001 and 2016, according to the American Farmland Trust. Additionally, pressure on farmers to transition their land to solar farms has become more prevalent.
“Farmland protection is a critical tool in our fight against climate change. Protected farms serve as the foundation for farmers to steward the land with climate-smart practices that can benefit all New Yorkers with fresh, local food, healthy soil, and clean water and air,” said Mikaela Perry, American Farmland Trust policy manager.
In its 19th round of funding, the state has expanded the eligibility criteria to include field crops, livestock or livestock products, and access to farmland. The intention is to assist new and beginning farmers as well as retiring farmers.
The grant program allows counties, land trusts, and soil and water conservation districts to purchase the development rights to farms ensuring that the land stays in agricultural production. Additionally, the program funds other protections such as amendments to local laws, option agreements and covering the costs of donated agricultural conservation easements.
“New York farmland is an important resource that must be protected from encroaching development. Once it is lost, it seldom returns to production which is a loss for our state’s food supply,” New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher said.
Eight projects have been awarded funding so far totaling the protection of 2,014 acres of farmland. Applications will continue to be accepted until all funds have been allocated.
Natasha Sutherland, third-generation dairy farmer and herd manager at Stein Farms, said while they are a lot of paperwork and about a year away from receiving the funds, they are excited to be awarded.
“It means we can go forward with the longevity piece. We can invest in our infrastructure to make sure the farm is here for future generations,” Sutherland said.
Currently, the land houses their main farm location which is the center of their operation including the heifer barns and milk parlor.
“There’s five little boys that run around here on the weekends so it’s part of our planning for those kids,” she said.
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball said farmers who work to conserve farmland for future generations help put food on New Yorkers’ tables.
“Farmland is one of the most important natural resources we have. The Farmland Protection Program helps us to not only preserve our land and our rich soils, but also to help farmers continue their operations,” Ball said.