HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Agricultural Land Preservation Board preserved 35 farms covering 3,333 acres across 19 counties during its first meeting of the new year, held Feb. 22 in the state capital.

Since the program began in 1988, federal, state, county and local governments have purchased permanent easements on 5,462 farms totaling 562,920 acres in 59 counties for agricultural production.

“Looking at the geographic, ownership, and production diversity of the farms preserved at this week’s meeting, it’s clear that this program has a statewide impact and benefits farm families of all types and at all stages, from those growing their operations to those transitioning to a new generation,” said Russell Redding, Pennsylvania’s secretary of agriculture. “More than $56 million committed for strategically safeguarding our most vulnerable farmland this coming year is an incredible success only made possible because of the commitment of government at all levels, farm families, volunteer county and state board members, and the citizens of Pennsylvania. Together, we have created and sustained a program that is a model for our country.”

The 17-member board approved its highest annual spending threshold in a decade — $38 million approved for 2019 purchases of development rights from farm owners.

Additionally, counties certified the highest amount of funding for preservation in 12 years, at $18.2 million.

The Pennsylvania Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Program, as it is formally known, is dedicated to slowing the loss of prime farmland to nonagricultural 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 the Feb. 22 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 USDA’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.

These investments in preserving farmland for future production will be further enhanced by spending Gov. Tom Wolf has proposed in the PA Farm Bill.

Farms preserved during the February meeting:

Allegheny County

The Urban Homesteaders, LLC, farm, a 77.85-acre crop and livestock operation

Beaver County

The Guidice-Davis Farm #1, a 127.91-acre crop and livestock operation

Berks County

The Shirley B. Frank Estate farm, a 108.4-acre crop and livestock operation

The Glenn E. and Rose M. Jacoby farm, a 24.5-acre crop farm

The Paul J. Stump, Sr., Estate farm, a 109.9-acre crop farm

Bucks County

The White Star Limited Partnership farm, a 102-acre crop farm

Butler County

The Kathy B. Allen farm, a 35.36-acre crop and livestock operation

The Farm Kings, LLC, farm, an 88.29-acre livestock operation

The John P. Jordan farm, a 56.76-acre crop farm

Cambria County

The Justin E. and Marci D. Beyer farm #1, a 68.26-acre crop and livestock operation

Chester County

The Kenneth J. and Deborah S. Roberts farm, a 50.57-acre crop farm

The Samuel M. and Barbara S. Stoltzfus farm, a 98.14-acre crop farm

Cumberland County

Creekside Dairy, LLC, a 48-acre crop farm

The C. Richard and Janet L. Kutz farm, a 70.37-acre crop farm

The Donald A. McKeehan farm #8, a 100.47-acre crop and livestock operation

The Donald A. McKeehan farm #9, an 88.8-acre crop farm

The James D. and Amy C. Paulus farm, a 45.3-acre crop farm

The Richard D. and Mary Ellen Yeager farm, a 50.69-acre dairy farm

Dauphin County

The Erich Bair farm #1, a 128.52-acre crop and livestock operation

The Gordon Kochenour farm #1, a 145.8-acre crop and livestock operation

Greene County

The William Milesky farm, a 116-acre crop and livestock operation

Lackawanna County

The David Colombo farm #1, a 145.85-acre crop and livestock operation

Lancaster County

The Jay Ivan and Ruth Ann Stoltzfus farm, a 107.06-acre crop farm

Luzerne County

The Rosemarie Mylet farm #1, a 104.58-acre crop farm

The Bryan Ochs farm, a 37.53-acre crop farm

Lycoming County

The Richard Eiswerth farm, a 78.98-acre crop farm

Mercer County

The Scott and Verna McCarl farm, a 187.12-acre crop and livestock operation

The Benjamin J. and Kristy L. Mozes farm, a 105.02-acre crop and livestock operation

Northampton County

The Donald S. and Mary K. Harris farm, a 61.41-acre crop farm

The Moore Township farm #2, a 37.92-acre crop farm

The James L. Wackermann Sr. farm, a 26.23-acre crop farm

Washington County

The Marko Brigich Jr. farm, a 104.94-acre crop and livestock operation

The Robert W. Miller farm, a 446.24-acre crop and livestock operation

Westmoreland County

The Loyalhanna Watershed Association farm, a 119.99-acre crop and livestock operation

York County

The Priscilla D. Knight farm, a 28-acre crop farm

Lancaster Farming