A farm in Ephrata, Lancaster County. (Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)
Continuing what it says is its mission to preserve farms and farmland across Pennsylvania, the state Department of Agriculture announced Thursday that it had purchased 30 farms and 2,305 acres of farmland for more than $5 million as part of its Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Program.
The Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Program, better known as the Pennsylvania Farmland Preservation Program, was established in 1988 to preserve farmland across the commonwealth.
According to the department, “the program guarantees a future food supply and contributes to a healthier economy, by preserving farms and farmland and protecting them from” future residential, commercial or industrial development.”
Since its creation, the program has preserved 5,329 farms and 552,702 acres of farmland in Pennsylvania.
“Each acre of preserved Pennsylvania farmland is an investment in the future,” Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said in a statement. “When farmers commit to land preservation, they are assuring a resilient food system for tomorrow because their acres will always be available to produce food. These farmers have resisted pressure to sell to developers and deserve our thanks for thinking of future generations. It is generous farmers like these who have made Pennsylvania the leading state for farmland preservation.”
The 30 farms the Agriculture Department announced Thursday hail from 19 counties, including Allegheny, Beaver, Berks, Butler, Centre, Chester, Dauphin, Cumberland, Erie, Franklin, Huntingdon, Indiana, Lancaster, Lehigh, Lycoming, Montgomery, Northampton, Washington and Westmoreland counties, the department confirmed, adding that crop, livestock, Christmas tree and poultry operations make up the farms preserved.
To qualify for the program, farms have to meet specific criteria, which includes a minimum size requirement, the use of environmental stewardship practices and the likelihood of conversion.
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