Pa. eliminates bottleneck for farmland preservation

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge has signed into law a bill amending the Agricultural Security Area Law to allow counties to preserve tracts of farmland that extend into adjoining counties.

“This law will help make things easier for counties that administer farmland-preservation programs,” Gov. Ridge said. “Even more important, it empowers counties to work together.”

House Bill 101, sponsored by Rep. Sheila Miller (R-Berks), authorizes the purchase of an agricultural conservation easement by a county even if a portion of the farm extends into a neighboring county; allows for the inclusion of a farm tract that extends into an adjacent township or borough into a proposed agricultural security area; and eliminates the $10,000 per-acre cap on state funds for the purchase of the easements.

House Bill 101 also allows for the renewal of the Farmland Trust Program and the Long-Term Installment Program.

National leader.

Earlier this year, Pennsylvania was recognized as the national leader in farmland preservation by the American Farmland Trust.

Since 1989, Pennsylvania has protected 1,600 farms totaling nearly 195,000 acres, and the state is protecting farmland at a rate faster than any state in the nation. Currently, 51 counties are participating in the state’s farmland preservation program.

More than $70 million in county and state funding is available for farmland preservation in the upcoming year, including approximately $20 million from the “Growing Greener” initiative, a large-scale investment in protecting the environment and preservation of open space.

House Bill 101 passed unanimously in the House and Senate, and takes effect in 30 days.

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