HARRISBURG – Senator Doug Mastriano (PA-33) officially introduced legislation, SB 288, to expand Pennsylvania’s successful Agriculture Conservation Easement Purchase Program.
In recent years, more and more prime farmland has been lost to development. According to Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, acres of farmland in Pennsylvania fell by 6% (7.3 million acres) between 2012 and 2017. The number of farms dropped by 10% (53,157) over that same period.
Pennsylvania’s successful Agriculture Conservation Easement Purchase Program is a nationwide model for farmland preservation. Under the easement program, 58 participating county programs receive state funds for the purchase of agricultural conservation easements. The easement limits the use of the property to agricultural purposes and the landowner is financially compensated for the sale of the easement.
Since 1988, the program has purchased permanent conservation easements on 5,979 Pennsylvania farms, covering 606,215 acres in 58 counties. Due to the popularity of the program, annual farm applications far outnumber the amount of available funding.
SB 288 will increase annual funding to the program by earmarking 10% of PA’s realty transfer tax revenue to go toward the easement program, equating to an average infusion of over $80 million in additional annual funds for farmland preservation. The bill also expands the eligibility of farms by reducing the minimum subdivision size for preserved farmland from 50 acres to 25 acres and allows parcels less than 10 acres that are adjacent to preserved land or used to produce crops unique to the area to be eligible.
“An abundance of agricultural land is crucial to maintaining food security and protecting against supply chain instability for the commonwealth and our nation,” said Senator Mastriano. “The ag industry provides a $135.7 billion annual economic impact, represents close to 18% of Pennsylvania’s gross state product, and employs nearly 580,000 people with combined wages of $27 billion. Our agricultural lands provide scenic images of rural life landscaped across fertile valleys of surrounding hills and mountains. These open spaces are a beautiful backdrop and draw thousands to our state to spend money in the growing agritourism business. We must act now to preserve these lands before too many acres are lost to development forever.”
SB 288 has the full support of Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and has been referred to the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee for consideration.
Contact: Josh Herman