At its April meeting, Pennsylvania’s Agricultural Land Preservation Board safeguarded 3,134 additional acres on 31 farms in 17 counties through the state’s nation-leading farmland preservation program.

The board preserved 31 farms covering 3,134 acres across 17 counties: Adams, Berks, Blair, Centre, Chester, Columbia, Crawford, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lackawanna, Lebanon, Lehigh, Mercer, Monroe, Montgomery, Washington, and York. Since the program began in 1988, federal, state, county, and local governments have purchased permanent easements on 5,494 farms totaling 566,305 acres in 59 counties for agricultural production.

“Behind every farm is a story: of families and the natural resources they both use and conserve,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “Our farmland preservation program seeks not only to preserve farmland, but our economy, our food supply, and a way of life. The commitment of a cadre of volunteers and staff makes each of these covenants—in which farmers entrust to us the security of their farmland in perpetuity—possible.”

The safeguarded lands included nurseries, dairies, crop farms, incubators for local agriculture, and one of the largest farms preserved in the 31-year history of the state program. Among the farms preserved were three submitted by Lehigh County’s Lower Macungie Township. The farms will be conveyed from ownership by the township to private ownership and used to mentor new and beginning agriculturalists. The 641-acre Dunn family farm in Crawford County used multiple years’ worth of state and local funding to complete a purchase that has been planned since 2013.

“These are just the latest stories of agriculture that have seen new chapters written thanks to our preservation program,” added Redding. “I particularly admire the innovative spirit of the Lehigh County and Lower Macungie Township staff and volunteers who are working hard to make these opportunities a reality for an up-and-coming generation that is excited about the opportunities of production agriculture. My best wishes to all farmers who benefit from this meeting’s investment in Pennsylvania.”

The Pennsylvania Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Program, as it is formally known, is dedicated to slowing the loss of prime farmland to non-agricultural uses. Funding allows state, county and local governments to purchase conservation easements, from owners of quality farmland. State, county, local, and federal funds committed at today’s meeting, and allocated to county programs, will secure the purchase of development rights to preserve farms waiting on the county backlog lists.

In some cases, federal funding helps to preserve these lands. The 2018 Farm Bill provides a significant opportunity to leverage federal funds through the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. The department will negotiate a cooperative agreement to participate in the federal Agricultural Conservation Easement program in the coming year.