Pennsylvania Celebrates 25th Anniversary Of Farmland Preservation Program

Pennsylvania celebrated a milestone Thursday as it marked the 25th anniversary of the nation’s most successful farmland preservation program. Pennsylvania’s program secures the state’s agricultural future by saving the farms of the past.

“We are witnessing history today, a history that every Pennsylvanian had a hand in writing,” said Secretary of Agriculture George Greig. “No other state has such a strong commitment to its farming future as Pennsylvania. Thanks to farmland preservation and other programs that keep farmers farming, Pennsylvania’s next generation of farmers will continue in that rich tradition.’’

Click Here to watch Secretary Greig’s remarks. (Photo: Secretary Greig addresses celebration.)

The state farmland preservation board preserved an additional 1,843 acres on 20 farms during a meeting on Spring House Farm in Mercersburg, Franklin County. The farm is owned by Jere and Angela Hissong.

Spring House Farm predates the Revolutionary War. More than 150 years later, the Hissongs purchased the property to continue agricultural production.

The farm was one of 20 protected at the meeting, joining farms in Adams, Berks, Bucks, Chester, Fayette, Franklin, Lancaster, Lycoming, Montgomery, Susquehanna, Union and York counties.

Since the program began in 1988, state, county and local governments have invested more than $1.2 billion to preserve 480,089 acres on 4,491 farms in 57 counties for future agricultural production.

The Pennsylvania Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Program identifies properties and slows the loss of prime farmland to non-agricultural uses.

The program enables state, county and local governments to purchase conservation easements, also called development rights, from owners of quality farmland.

In some cases, the federal Farm and Ranchlands Protection Program provides additional assistance. Last fiscal year, Pennsylvania received a record $6.1 million in federal reimbursements.

The Department of Agriculture provided this timeline of significant milestones in Pennsylvania’s farmland preservation efforts--

-- 1681: On July 11 William Penn’s Conditions or Concessions gave instructions for laying out a large town on the Delaware River and on how land was to be sold. It included an instruction that one acre of land be preserved for every five acres of land cleared, Pennsylvania’s first conservation law.

-- 1880: Largest number of acres of farmland recorded in Pennsylvania-- 19,791,000.  Pennsylvania now has a little over 7.8 million acres;

-- 1965: Open Space Act authorizing counties to establish preferential property tax assessments to preserve farmland and open space (Act 515);

-- 1973: Voters approve a constitutional amendment to preserve farmland through preferential property tax assessments;

-- 1974: The Clean and Green Program was enacted to implement the constitutional amendment to preserve farmland through preferential property tax assessments (Act 319);

-- 1979: The Agricultural Lands Condemnation Board was created to approve the use of farmland for solid waste and other public facilities (Act 100);

-- 1981: Act 43, the Agricultural Area Security Law enacted;

-- 1987: $100 million bond issue approved by voters for farmland preservation;

-- 1988: Act 149, the Easement Purchase Program legislation is approved;

-- 1989: First counties approved to participate in the farmland easement purchase program, with the first purchased approved in Lancaster County;

-- 1995: General Assembly approves dedicated funding for the easement purchase program from the state’s cigarette tax;

-- 1997: Milestone of 100,000 acres preserved is celebrated on the Setzer Farm, Northampton County;

-- 1999: The Growing Greener Program enacted providing $100 million to preserve 42,888 acres of farmland over five years. Milestone of 1,000 preserved farms is reached;

-- 2001: Pennsylvania recognized by the American Farmland Trust as the national leader in farmland preservation;

-- 2003: 250,000 acres preserved milestone is reached;

-- 2004: The Seidel Farm, Berks County, becomes the 2,500th farm preserved;

-- 2005: Voters approved the Growing Greener II bond issue and county environmental program providing $80 million to the farmland preservation program and accelerating the rate of preservation.  These funds helped preserve another 33,713 acres;

-- 2006: The Breneman Farm, Lancaster County, becomes the 3,000th farm preserved.  Pennsylvania allocates $102 million for easement purchases while counties appropriate $45 million, both record amounts;

-- 2007: The 250,000th acre is preserved on the Yearick Farm in Clinton County in October, 75 farms are permanently preserved, a new record for the number of easements approved at a state Farmland Preservation Board meeting;

-- 2008: In April, the Bortz Farm, Westmoreland County, becomes the 3,500th farm preserved.  The 425,000 acre milestone is reached in December;

-- 2010: The State Farmland Preservation Board celebrates the preservation of its 4,000th farm on the Zimmerman Farm in Lebanon County in June; and

-- 2013: The state Farmland Preservation Board celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Farmland Preservation Program with nearly 500,000 acres on 4,500 farms preserved.

For more information, visit Agriculture’s Farmland Preservation webpage.


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