Support Small Scale Farming in NY: Pass the Suburban Agriculture District Bill

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In Rockland County, the number of farms decreased from 406 farms covering more than 17,000 acres in 1950, to only five production farms covering 520 acres in 2000. We are still losing valuable, farmable land today. This is not just about the loss of sources of locally grown food. This is also about the loss of open space, of environmental education and land stewardship, and of opportunities for future generations to receive agricultural training locally. We need to ensure that farms can thrive where we live for the health of our communities.

The current minimum required for an Agricultural District is 500 acres (250 acres in production and 250 acres surrounding land and building lots). The bills in the Assembly and Senate reduce the amount of acreage required to form an agricultural district to 250 acres. The reduction to 250 acres is a much more realistic and attainable number for counties like Rockland that do not have enough remaining farmland acreage to meet the current requirements.

An agricultural district encourages and protects farming because it assesses farmland based on its agricultural value rather than market value. As described in the Assembly bill, a Suburban Agricultural District would protect smaller farms located in suburban areas from “overly restrictive local laws, government funded acquisition or construction projects, and private nuisance suits involving agricultural practices in the districts.” The bills recognize that “development pressure, high land prices, and dense population in these areas can threaten the continued existence of farms. Agricultural District protections in some of our more developed counties are not attainable because there is not sufficient farmland acreage to meet the current requirements of the Agricultural Districts Law, due to the significant loss of farms and farmland over the past 30 years.”

When farming is a viable option in densely populated counties such as in the Lower Hudson Valley, it creates opportunities to lower greenhouse gas emissions and stormwater runoff, add more operational open space to the community thus maintaining and potentially increasing property values, and to make locally grown food more accessible to the community while also providing educational opportunities to people of all ages. More local farms would provide jobs, volunteer opportunities and internships, engaging youth in farming who could then potentially become farmers and proponents of sound environmental practices. It is time to put farms back into the suburban landscape before the opportunity disappears completely.

Today: Rockland Farm Alliance is counting on you

Rockland Farm Alliance needs your help with “New York State House: Support Small Scale Farming in NY: Pass the Suburban Agriculture District Bill”. Join Rockland Farm Alliance and 1,398 supporters today.