State Senate bill protecting North Country farmland becomes law
Tuesday, August 7, 2018 - 2:36 pm

Two state senators who represent parts of St. Lawrence County are lauding the passage and signing of a bill that strengthens protections for farmlands, to keep them in agriculture.

The bill, sponsored in the Senate by Agriculture Committee Chair Patty Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, and supported by Sen. Joseph Griffo, R-Rome, is intended to strengthen the grant program to better protect farmland, improve the chances of farmer-to-farmer property transactions, and to keep active farmland in use after its sale to a new owner.

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, according to the announcement from Griffo’s office. 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 such land is not guaranteed to pass to another farmer.

While traditional conservation easements restrict development rights, this 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.

“As the average age of farmers in New York is nearing 60, the state continues to lose farmland every day to non-agricultural uses,” Griffo said. “This law will give farmers some peace of mind that their farms, which may have been in their families for generations, will continue to play an important role in the state’s agricultural industry.”

This law will take effect in November.