Pennsylvania Governor seeks funding for farmland preservation

HAMBURG, Pennsylvania, November 15, 2004 (ENS): Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell Friday marked the addition of a 2,500th farm to Pennsylvania’s Farmland Preservation Program while calling for the renewal and expansion of Growing Greener, a state program that helps fund preservation of agricultural land.

“This milestone spotlights our commitment to the farmland preservation for years to come,” Rendell said during a State Land Preservation Board meeting at the Shea Farm in Hamburg, Berks County. “While we celebrate this great accomplishment, we also face a sobering reality - the reality that development is outpacing preservation. If farmland continues to disappear at a rate of more than 200 acres a day, Pennsylvania’s agricultural economy is in jeopardy.”

The governor is lobbying for his Growing Greener II proposal, whereby the state Farmland Preservation Program would receive $100 million as part of a proposed $800 million bond issue distributed among the following three areas over a four-year period - $330 million for parks, open space and farmland; $300 million for environmental cleanup; and $170 million to revitalize older communities.

“Despite the willingness of farmers to preserve their land, lack of funding has created a backlog of more than 1,900 farms,” said Rendell. “In the Sheas’ case, they have waited on the list for 14 years. The longer these farms wait, the greater the danger that prime farmland will fall victim to developers, and Pennsylvania will forever lose the land for agricultural use.”

“Growing Greener II funding will allow Pennsylvania to continue to preserve farmland in Pennsylvania,” said state Secretary of Agriculture Dennis Wolff, who appeared with the governor.

“As Pennsylvania loses its farms, farmland and farmers, we lose our competitive edge and economic advantage over other states and nations regarding agricultural production, trade and power. The additional $100 million will allow us to preserve an additional 375 farms or 43,000 acres—and help us keep the agriculture industry strong in the Commonwealth.”

Pennsylvania leads the nation in farmland preservation. Since purchasing the first development rights in 1989, the state's Agricultural Land Preservation Board has preserved 2,513 farms totaling 290,040 acres.

Through the preservation program, the state and individual counties can purchase development rights, called easements, on farmland. Landowners are compensated for offering their development rights for the land while permanently protecting the farmland for agriculture.

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