LOOKING FOR A FEW GOOD FARMS
The Westmoreland County Agricultural Land Preservation Board will now accept applications from farmland owners in Westmoreland County for the sale of a Conservation Easement at any time, with a September 1, 2020 cutoff date to be considered for the 2020 Easement Purchase Funding.
A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between the farmer, the Commonwealth and the County of Westmoreland that permanently protects the land from development. The farmer retains ownership of the protected land and continues to make all management decisions, within the limits of the conservation easement.
Pennsylvania has set guidelines for the type of farms that will be considered for a conservation easement. The minimum criteria for land to be eligible are as follows:
- The farm tract must be located in an agricultural security area consisting of 500 acres or more. (This requirement is for the total acreage in the municipality to be 500 acres or more.)
- The farm tract must be contiguous acreage of at least 50 acres in size. Tracts of 10 acres in size adjacent to other protected land, or 35 acres in size may be considered, under additional criteria. (See 5.)
- The farm must contain land with at least 50% of the soils available for agricultural production in capability classes I through IV, as defined by the Soil Surveys of the USDA- Natural Resources Conservation Service.
- Contain the greater of 50% or 10 (ten) acres of harvested cropland, pasture or grazing lands.
- The purchase of an Agricultural Conservation Easement by the Westmoreland County Agricultural Land Preservation Board may be permitted on farms with contiguous acreage of less than 50 acres if the following applies to that farmland tract: For farmland tracts with contiguous acreage of 35 to 49.9 acres in size, the tract must be 80% harvested cropland or pastureland and be located in a prime agricultural area.
- If the land is harvested cropland, it must be capable of producing sustained yields per acre equal to the county average yield per acre for each crop as published by the Pennsylvania Agricultural Statistical Service (PASS) www.nass.usda.gov
- Conservation Plans are required. A farm submitting an application for consideration of an agricultural conservation easement must have an Agricultural Conservation Plan to address the agricultural production on the subject land. The landowner(s) agree to the terms of the Conservation Plan and the implementation schedule contained in the plan.
In Their Own Words
“We preserved our land to safeguard future farms and preserve productive farmland, for future generations.”
Edward & Margie Sossa, East Huntingdon
“On May 22, 2013 we chose to preserve our farm in Mt. Pleasant Township for four basic reasons: First – Its prior owners had done so by raising food crops and livestock on it for more than 150 years. Second- We were mindful of the present need to ensure the future existence of family farms in our county as well as across the state. Third – The County Commissioners had recognized the benefit of adopting the Agricultural Land Preservation Program as a means of preserving farms in Westmoreland County. Fourth – We witnessed the dedicated and effective administration of the program by Betty Reefer. Her work and that of the various members of the Board have led to the success and continued growth of the meaningful program. Carol and I are satisfied to know that our farm will always have stewards to preserve it.”
Walnut Bottom Farm, The Ober’s, Mt. Pleasant
“I chose to enter the Farmland Preservation program because I strongly believe in the heritage of agriculture in our area. My father and grandfather instilled this at an early age. We all worked together as a Dairy Farm family to maintain our livelihood and farm. Times have changed and I realize that the only constant is change. Change from conventional tilling to no tilling, dairy to beef, whatever it takes to keep things going. I feel the family farm is still a strong block in American society.”
Frank E. Skacel, Jr., VMD, Derry