New York renews farm protection

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York has $20.5 million available for farmland protection efforts, the first time in five years the grant program has been offered.

Eligible entities, including municipalities, counties, soil and water conservation districts (SWCD) and not-for-profit conservation organizations/land trusts, can apply for individual grants under the Round 13 Farmland Protection Implementation Grants Request for Proposals (RFP).

“Farming supports jobs, businesses and economic activity in communities across the state, ultimately representing a cornerstone of our state’s economy,” said Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo May 14 in making the announcement.

Funding is available through the New York State Environmental Protection Fund and administered by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.

Competitive

When offered in the past, the grant has been highly competitive, with requests for state assistance often exceeding available funds by a factor of three.

The Department of Agriculture and Markets anticipates an even greater number of proposals will be submitted this year because the grant has not been offered by New York State for several years.

Additionally, revisions to state law have increased the state contribution to a maximum of 87.5 percent (up from 75 percent) and also expanded the number of entities now eligible to apply directly for these funds — adding land trusts and SWCDs.

“We’ve listened to program participants and as a result we have taken a number of steps to streamline the process,” said State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball.

For example, the number of documents required to complete a project has been reduced and the overall process has been streamlined.

In addition, the Department of Agriculture and Markets has instituted a number of contractual milestones to ensure that most projects will be on target for completion under a more practical .

New agreement option

This RFP will enable eligible entities to help landowners protect at-risk farmland through the use of permanent conservation easements or incentive payment agreements.

Although the vast majority of the funding will go to permanent easements, the incentive payment agreements are being offered for the first time under this program, and will allow eligible entities to make multi-year commitments to landowners, at least five but no more than 10.

The eligible entities would then work with the landowners to seek other funding arrangements to effectively create a perpetual conservation easement on these lands.

Also known as “lease of development rights,” this particular tool has been identified in municipal agricultural and farmland protection plans adopted across New York.

Up to $2 million under the RFP will be available for this new type of project.

Learn more

Application materials and important webinar information for the Round 13 Farmland Protection Implementation Grants RFP are available for download on the Department of Agriculture and Markets website at www.agriculture.ny.gov/RFPS.html.

Application materials are also available by calling 800-554-4501.

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