Farmlands across the nation face pressure from development, and that holds true for Huntingdon County. HCCD is committed to preserving agricultural land. Here are a few ways we encourage preservation in our county:
Agricultural Security Areas
Agricultural Security Areas are a tool for protecting our farms and farmland from non-agricultural uses. To establish an ASA, a petition is submitted to the township supervisors by a group of farmers. A combined minimum of 250 acres is required for the establishment of an ASA. These security areas are reevaluated every seven years; however, new parcels of farmland may be added to an established ASA at any time. An ASA may include non-adjacent farmland parcels of at least 10 acres or parcels which are able to produce $2,000 annually from the sale of agricultural products.
Participants receive special consideration regarding:
- Protection from local ordinances and nuisance lawsuits affecting normal farming activities.
- Review of farmland condemnation by state and local government agencies.
- Hazardous waste and low-level radioactive waste sites are not to be located on land in an ASA.
Huntingdon County currently has ASA's established in 19 municipalities, totaling over 73,000 acres. There are no restrictions on the land that is enrolled in the ASA. Being in an ASA qualifies land for consideration under the farmland preservation program at the owner's request, as long as the ASA has at least 500 acres enrolled. For more information on how to create an ASA, or to add acreage to an existing ASA, please contact Celina Seftas, District Manager.
Farms enrolled in an ASA with at least 500 acres, are eligible for the Farmland Preservation Program. This voluntary program is designed to preserve the most productive farmlands through a perpetual agricultural conservation easement. These easements protect enrolled farmland permanently. Interested landowners sell the development right on the farm to the state/county, and the landowner is fairly compensated. In turn, the state/county is able to prevent further development. The state/county only owns this very specific right to the farm, and landowners retain all other property rights and ownership. If you are interested in enrolling your farm in this program, please contact our District Manager, Celina Seftas.
The Pennsylvania Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Program was developed in 1988 to help slow the loss of prime farmland to non-agricultural uses. The program enables state, county and local governments to purchase conservation easements, sometimes called development rights, from owners of quality farmland. The first easements were purchased in Pennsylvania in1989. Today there are 57 participating county programs that receive state funds for the purchase of agricultural conservation easements. Counties participating in the program have appointed agricultural land preservation boards with a state board created to oversee this program. The state board is responsible for distribution of state funds, approval and monitoring of county programs and specific easement purchases.
Recognizing the need for local leadership to conserve and protect remaining viable agricultural land, the Huntingdon County Commissioners appointed a nine member Huntingdon County Agricultural Land Preservation Board. The program is administered by the Huntingdon County Conservation District, and the Planning & Development Department provides representation on the County Board. The County Board’s purpose is to preserve farmland by developing and administering a program to protect farmland and to provide leadership and support to the county’s agricultural land preservation efforts.
Farm applications are ranked according to soil productivity, development potential, farmland potential, and clustering, or proximity to other farms under easement and in Ag Security Areas. The top-ranked farm then receives an appraisal to determine the easement value. An easement purchase offer is made based on the easement value and the amount of county, state, and sometimes federal funds available. Upon the landowner’s acceptance of the offer, a sales agreement is drawn up and a survey is done to determine the final easement acreage. The application is then forwarded to the state board for approval after which settlement occurs and the easement is recorded.
Since the county program’s inception, interest in the program has continued to grow. To date, 10 farms have been preserved in Huntingdon County totaling 1,169 acres. Statewide, more than 5,800 farms encompassing over 596,000 acres have been permanently protected. Pennsylvania now leads the nation in farmland preservation. A sound farmland preservation program will help assure that farmers in this county have sufficient agricultural lands to provide farm products for the people of Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania, and the United States.
For more information on AgLand Preservation, please visit the State Farmland Preservation website.