Preservation & Security
Dan Carney’s farm became the first farm in Cambria County to be preserved in 2000…
Since then 17 farms in the county have been preserved. But what does that really mean? It is the purpose of the Farmland Preservation Program is to protect viable agricultural lands by acquiring agricultural conservation easements which prevent the development or improvement of the land for any purpose other than agricultural production.
What is the Farmland Preservation Program?
The Farmland Preservation Program was established in order to preserve the integrity of Pennsylvania agriculture and combat the loss of high quality farmland to development and the loss of the agricultural economy and way of life. The Pennsylvania Farmland Preservation Program began in 1988 under an amendment to the Agricultural Area Security Law.
The first easement was purchased to preserve a Pennsylvania farm in December 1989. As of 2015 over 500,000 acres have been preserved in Pennsylvania on over 4,700 farms. Farmland Preservation is an Easement Purchase Program in which the county and state government purchase the easement from the owners of quality farmland.
This program serves to:
Encourage landowners to make a long‑term commitment to agriculture by offering them financial incentives and security of land use;
Assure conservation of viable agricultural lands in order to protect the agricultural economy of this Commonwealth;
Maximize agricultural easement purchase funds and protect the investment of taxpayers in agricultural conservation easements.
What is an Agricultural Security Area?
In order to preserve a farm it must be enrolled in the Agricultural Security Area program. The purpose of the program is to strengthen the farming community's sense of security in land use and the right to farm. Currently 65 of the 67 counties in Pennsylvania have Agricultural Security Areas in place. Participating farmers are entitled to special consideration from local and state government agencies.
Ag Security Areas are:
Initiated by a petition of farm landowners
Petition submitted by certified mail
Minimum area of 250 total acres (500 acres to be eligible for Farmland Preservation)
May include non-adjacent farmland parcels
Township or borough level program
Have a seven year lifetime, then reviewed
Parcels may be added during seven year period
Participation by landowners is voluntary
How to get involved in the program?
The Cambria County Agricultural Land Preservation Program Board of Directors call for applications on a yearly basis (depending on the amount of allocation funds available to preserve a farm that year). Notices for applications are placed in local papers and information is always available at the Conservation District Office (see contact info on back panel of brochure). Farm owners complete the application provided and the District computes a ranking score. Generally, due to the limit of funding only the top-ranking farm is selected for easement purchase.
The following are minimum criteria to qualify:
Must be enrolled in an Agricultural Security Area.
Contiguous acreage of at least 35 acres in size or at least 10 acres that are contiguous to a property that already has a perpetual conservation easement in place
50% of soils must fall into soils capability classes I-IV
The farmland tract must contain 50% harvested cropland, hayland, or pasture.
Mineral rights must be made known.
Ranking system is based on:
In Cambria County approximately 2,786 acres have been preserved on 17 farms. Easement purchase prices have ranged between $800 to $1500 per acre
Reasons why farmland should be preserved:
According to the American Farmland Trust, the U.S. is losing two acres of farmland every minute.
Cambria County’s #1 industry is Agriculture
Cambria County is generally the largest producer of potatoes and oats in Pennsylvania
Provides wildlife habitat, recharges groundwater, and slows stormwater runoff
Ensures that high quality farmland will remain intact for future generations
Buying locally produced food is economical and environmentally friendly
Keeps property taxes low-for every dollar a farm family pays only 33 cents worth of government services are used
Adds to aesthetic appeal and increases scenic visitors