The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets today announced nearly $8.5 million has been provided in support of conservation easement projects on several New York dairy farms. Dairy farmers continue to face challenges from prolonged low milk prices, increasing the threat of the conversion of viable agricultural land to non-farm development. The Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program is helping to ensure dairy farms the opportunity to diversify their operations or transition their farm to the next generation at a more affordable cost while ensuring the land forever remains used for agricultural purposes.
Funding for the program is still available and the Department is encouraging its partners in the farmland protection program across the State to apply. Additional information can be found on the Department's website at https://www.agriculture.ny.gov/RFPS.html.
“This is a great opportunity for our dairy farmers to take advantage of the grants available to ensure the protection of farmland and help encourage the next generation of farmers,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who visited dairy farmers today in the North Country. “We want to continue to grow our agricultural economy in New York State and make sure farmers have the resources and support they need to continue to provide local products for people around the world.”
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “By expanding the State’s farmland protection program to include an opportunity specific to New York State’s dairy farmers, we are hoping to provide some relief during this difficult time. The program can provide several options for farmers, from diversifying or converting operations to transitioning the farm to the next generation. The grants will provide a boost to our farmers at a time when they need it most and ensure that these valuable lands remain used for agriculture.”
Ensuring that the viable agricultural land base of an operating dairy farm is protected from conversion to non-farm uses is essential to the long-term viability and sustainability of New York's agricultural industry. The largest sector of the agricultural industry, New York's dairy industry is a critical component of State's economy, accounting for approximately one-half of its on-farm production, support services and value-added products. New York State is home to approximately 4,500 dairy farms with 620,000 cows, producing 14.9 billion pounds of milk. New York ranks third in the production of milk and is first in the nation in the production of other dairy products such as yogurt and cottage cheese.
The projects awarded are:
Dutchess Land Conservancy - $1,257,966 for the conservation of Destined Wind Farm, located in the Town of Amenia in Dutchess County.
Genesee Valley Conservancy - $1,993,665 for the conservation of True Farm, located in the Town of Perry in Wyoming County.
New York Agricultural Land Trust - $2,000,000 for the conservation of Preble Hill Farms, located in the Town of Preble in Cortland County.
Genesee Valley Conservancy - $1,817,063 for the conservation of Silver Meadows Farm, located in the Towns of Castile and Perry in Wyoming County.
Genesee Valley Conservancy - $1,414,504 for the conservation of Batzing Farms, located in the Town of York in Livingston County.
The state is accepting applications on a rolling basis for farmland protection grants of up to $2 million from eligible entities, such as land trusts, municipalities, counties, and soil and water conservation districts. There is no application deadline.
Conservation easement projects will be awarded to eligible dairy farms that are:
Transitioning to the next ownership of a continuing dairy, but whose operation has been modified to ensure greater financial sustainability;
Continuing dairy, but diversifying the overall farm operation; or
Converting to a non-dairy farm operation.
All farmland protection project proposals must be submitted electronically through the New York State Grants Gateway. For more information regarding the Grants Gateway, please visit https://grantsgateway.ny.gov. Additional information and the RFA can be found on the Department's website at https://www.agriculture.ny.gov/RFPS.html.
“Farmland preservation can be a valuable program to keep land in production for the next generation. It can be especially important in today’s farm economy to provide families an outlet to remain in the dairy business, while also exploring value-added or diversification opportunities in our state’s large agricultural community,” said David Fisher, New York Farm Bureau President.
“The Dairy Transitions program came at just the right time for dairy farmers in New York, providing a real opportunity to help these farms remain viable at a time when the dairy industry really needs help,” said Samantha Levy, New York Policy Manager for American Farmland Trust. “AFT applauds the Governor and the Department of Agriculture and Markets for creating this program to help our dairy farmers. Not only will these funds help ensure a strong future for these farms now, but they will contribute to a strong future for agriculture in New York by protecting these acres from development forever.”
The Farmland Protection Program for dairy builds on New York State's continued land preservation efforts. Earlier this year, the State announced nearly $38 million is available through the Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program to help farmers across New York protect valuable and at-risk farmland. Those awards will be announced in the very near future.
In addition, the Department announced $5.5 million is also available through two new grant opportunities, first announced in the Governor's 2017 State of the State address, to help keep farmland in agricultural production. The funding will help applicants cover costs associated with obtaining and administering an Option Agreement Project, for which $5 million is available, and also cover transaction costs associated with donated agricultural conservation easements, for which the remaining $500,000 is available. Since the Governor took office in 2011, the state has invested more than $76 million in 107 farmland protection projects statewide.