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Agriculture / Conservation News
Working Lands Alliance says new fund boosting interest in farmland preservation
  APRIL 2008 -- Thanks to legislation enacted last year, farmland preservation efforts are accelerating in Connecticut.  According to the Working Lands Alliance, a coalition of more than 200 organizations that spearheaded efforts to enact the legislation, at least $10 million in funding should be available this year for landowners to sell their development rights to the State.

“Many farmers and farmland owners have wanted to protect their land but been stymied by lack of state funding,” said Terry Jones, a farmer from Shelton and Chair of the Working Lands Alliance. “For them, this funding can finally make that vision a reality.”

The new legislation calls for the State Bond Commission to vote on the authorization of at least $5 million in bonding for farmland preservation twice a year until unauthorized funds have been exhausted. The Bond Commission approved $5 million in December; approval of the next $5 million is anticipated at the Bond Commission’s February 29th meeting.   
This level of bonding for farmland preservation represents a significant increase over recent years. Over the past 5 years, the state’s investment in the program has averaged just $2 million annually. “The new funds will allow us to at least triple the number of farms and the number of acres preserved on an annual basis,” reported Joseph Dippel, Director of the State’s Farmland Preservation Program.  “We will be able to go from preserving five or six farms per year, to between 15 and 20 farms per year,” Dippel said.
Historically burdened by administrative delays and erratic funding, the program is gearing up for an increase in quantity and quality of landowner applications.  The Dept. of Agriculture has been able to add staff to the program to handle the increase in applications.

“We are optimistic that the new funds and staff capacity will fuel interest in the program – so it will be viewed as a realistic option for farm succession planning,” reported Dippel.
The Farmland Preservation Program preserves farmland by acquiring the development rights on farm parcels from willing landowners.  The farms remain in private ownership and continue to pay local property taxes.  A permanent restriction on non-agricultural uses is placed on the property. Parcels are ranked for priority based on soil quality, size, and proximity to other agricultural and protected lands.  Municipalities may also apply jointly with farmland owners.   

Recent data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture indicates that the rate of conversion of ‘rural lands’ to developed lands in Connecticut was 11,266 acres per year from 1997 to 2003.

Formed in 1999, Working Lands Alliance is a statewide coalition of farmers, municipal officials, environmentalists, anti-hunger advocates, and historic preservationists.  Working Lands Alliance is a project of American Farmland Trust.


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