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$500,000 to Advance Farmland Protection Actions
New York Ag Connection - 08/08/2018

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball Tuesday announced $500,000 is available to eligible land trusts to further farmland protection actions across New York State. The funding is being provided through the Land Trust Grants Program, which is part of a slate of new funding opportunities outlined in Governor Cuomo's 2017 State of the State address to enhance regional collaboration on farmland conservation projects. So far in 2018, nearly $75 million has been dedicated by the State to farmland preservation efforts in New York.

Ball said, "New York State has provided unprecedented support for farmland preservation over the last several years, from grant funding to assist with the purchase of development rights to support for the development of local land inventories. We're pleased to announce today's funding, which will cover the cost of an appraisal for a potential conservation easement project, helping to conserve New York's valuable farmland for future generations."

This second round of the Land Trust Grants Program is being offered to help landowners who are contemplating whether to sell or donate development rights on their farmland. Since appraisals estimate the value of development rights, this information will help landowners determine if they will proceed with a conservation easement. This funding opportunity helps strategic planning on the local level and advances activities identified in local farmland protection plans.

Awards of up to $50,000 will be made to eligible applicants. All proposals must be submitted on the Grants Gateway by 4 p.m. on Jan. 28.

Andrew Bowman, president, Land Trust Alliance, said, "The Land Trust Alliance commends Governor Cuomo, Commissioner Ball and the state Department of Agriculture and Markets for their commitment to protecting working farms. This strategic investment will help land trusts and land owners advance local farmland protection efforts. These funds, in addition to the nearly $75 million already dedicated to farmland protection in 2018, highlight New York as a national leader in private land conservation and as a champion of local farmers. With each farmland that's conserved, there's an economy that benefits and a town that's better fed. Land trusts are eager to continue this trend."

Awards from Round 1 of the Land Trust Grants Program were announced in April 2018, when $250,000 was provided to seven land trusts to implement or improve local farmland protection strategies that will benefit farms and communities across the state. These grants will be used to help provide greater land access to current and future farmers, and to educate landowners about programs available to protect their properties from conversion to non-farm uses.

Using existing or newly developed land inventories, the awarded land trusts will work together with towns and counties to begin or expand outreach to landowners willing to lease or sell their properties to farmers, and to match those farmers with agricultural land best suited for their operation. The funding will also be used to inform landowners of opportunities to protect their properties from development pressures.

The second round of the Land Trust Grants Program comes on the heels of the announcement of two major funding opportunities to preserve New York's farmland. Earlier this month, the Governor announced $30 million is available statewide to support conservation easement projects on dairy farms. New York's dairy farmers have been challenged with prolonged low milk prices, increasing the threat of the conversion of viable agricultural land to non-farm development. Funding through the State's Farmland Protection Implementation Grants Program will ensure dairy farms the opportunity to diversify their operations or transition their farm to the next generation at a more affordable cost while ensuring the land forever remains used for agricultural purposes. Eligible applicants can apply at www.agriculture.ny.gov/RFPS.html..There is no deadline to apply.

In May, the State announced nearly $38 million is available through the Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program to help farmers across New York protect valuable and at-risk farmland. The application deadline is Aug. 31 and the Request for Proposals is available at www.agriculture.ny.gov/RFPS.html#_blank. This funding opportunity is in addition to the $30 million announced for dairy.

The Department also announced $6 million for two additional grant opportunities, first announced in the Governor's 2017 State of the State address, to help keep farmland in agricultural production. The funding will help applicants cover costs associated with obtaining and administering an Option Agreement Project. It will also help project sponsors to cover all transaction costs of donated agricultural conservation easements. Since the Governor took office in 2011, the state has invested more than $62 million in 82 farmland protection projects statewide.

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