Pennsylvania leads nation in farmland preservation

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Pennsylvania farm

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania’s Agricultural Land Preservation Board at its April 15 meeting safeguarded 3,134 additional acres on 31 farms in 17 counties through the state’s nation-leading farmland preservation program.

The board preserved 31 farms covering 3,134 acres across 17 counties: Adams, Berks, Blair, Centre, Chester, Columbia, Crawford, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lackawanna, Lebanon, Lehigh, Mercer, Monroe, Montgomery, Washington, and York.

Newly preserved farms in Western Pennsylvania include:

  • Crawford: The William L. Dunn farm, a 641.01-acre crop and livestock operation;
  • Mercer: The Sylvia L. Heim farm #1, an 81.22-acre crop farm;
  • Washington: The Robert D. Lash farm, a 68.65-acre crop and livestock operation.

The 641-acre Dunn family farm in Crawford County used multiple years’ worth of state and local funding to complete a purchase that has been planned since 2013.

Since the program began in 1988, federal, state, county, and local governments have purchased permanent easements on 5,494 farms totaling 566,305 acres in 59 counties for agricultural production.

“Behind every farm is a story: of families and the natural resources, they both use and conserve,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “Our farmland preservation program seeks not only to preserve farmland, but our economy, our food supply, and a way of life.”

Helping new farmers

Among the farms preserved were three submitted by Lehigh County’s Lower Macungie Township.

The farms will be conveyed from ownership by the township to private ownership and used to mentor new and beginning agriculturalists.

The Pennsylvania Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Program, as it is formally known, is dedicated to slowing the loss of prime farmland to non-agricultural uses.

Funding allows state, county and local governments to purchase conservation easements, from owners of quality farmland.

State, county, local, and federal funds committed at the most recent meeting, and allocated to county programs, will secure the purchase of development rights to preserve farms waiting on the county backlog lists.

In some cases, federal funding helps to preserve these lands. The state ag department will negotiate a cooperative agreement to participate in the federal Agricultural Conservation Easement program in the coming year.

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