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Governor announces $20.5 million in farmland protection grants

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A total of $20.5 million in grant funding to aid farmland protection efforts is now available for municipalities, soil and water districts and nonprofit conservation organizations, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced this week.

Offered for the first time in five years, the grant funding is available through the Environmental Protection Fund and administered by the state Department of Agriculture and Markets. Applicants may apply for grants under the Round 13 Farmland Protection Grants Request for Proposals.

Because the grants have not been offered in several years, Ag and Markets anticipates a large number of proposals will be submitted this year.

In addition, revisions to state law have boosted the state contribution toward grants to a maximum of 87.5 percent, up from 75 percent; criteria for grant applicants have been revised to include land trusts and soil and water conservation districts for the first time

The funding aims to help municipalities and conservation groups protect at-risk farmland through the use of permanent conservation easements or incentive payment agreements, according to the governor’s office. The majority of the funding will go toward the establishment of permanent easements, but incentive payment agreements will be offered for the first time. Those payments will allow eligible entities to make multiyear commitments to landowners of at least five years, but no more than 10.

Entities would collaborate with landowners to seek funding for conservation easements. Up to $2 million in overall grant funding will be made available for those projects.

The move to make farmland protection grants available was praised in a prepared statement by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton.

“It goes without saying that quality, well-protected land is the basis for any successful family farm operation,” Mrs. Ritchie said. “I’m pleased that the newly enacted state budget increases funding to $20 million for key farmland protection programs, which will ensure this limited resource remains available for the next generation of New York’s farmers. This builds upon the work we have done recently — namely boosting funding for specific agriculture programs and launching an initiative to attract younger people to careers in farming — and will only help to further grow New York’s biggest industry.”

Application materials and webinar information for the Round 13 Farmland Protection Implementation Grants RFP are available for download on the Ag and Markets website at www.agriculture.ny.gov/RFPS.html.

Call the department directly to receive application materials at 1-800-554-4501.

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