State Senate Farmland Protection Bill Is Signed Into Law

A state Senate-led effort to improve the existing Farmland Protection Implementation Grant Program has been signed into law.

The measure (S8362A, Chapter 158), sponsored by state Sen. Patty Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, strengthens the grant program to better protect farmland, improves the chances of farmer-to-farmer property transactions, and keeps active farmland in use.

“Promoting the sale of farmland to another working farmer not only ensures the continued growth of New York state’s agricultural industry, but allows our older farmers to retire knowing their land will continue to provide farm-fresh products here in New York and across our country,” Ritchie said. “I was pleased to sponsor this bill and now that it is law, I look forward to seeing just how much it helps our state’s leading industry create new opportunities for eager farmers throughout New York state.”

New York farmers who are age 65 and older own or manage nearly a third of the more than seven million acres of farmland in the state, and many of them do not have an identified successor to take over the farm. As these farmers retire, roughly two million acres of farmland in New York are, or will soon be, transitioning to new ownership. Without new protections in place to promote sales of farmland to another working farmer, new ownership of protected farmland is not guaranteed to pass to another farmer.

While traditional conservation easements restrict development rights, the law would further restrict the value of the farm to its agricultural use value — an appraised value that reflects what a working farm is worth — making it even more affordable for working farmers to buy. By making farmer-purchaser agreements eligible for state assistance payments in the Farmland Protection Implementation Program, more retiring farmers who wish to preserve their farms may be willing to negotiate easements and more farms will remain in the hands of working farmers.