Suffolk County officials have unveiled a new funding program that will invest $100 million over the next 10 years to preserve at-risk farms.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone included the 100 for 10 Farmland Preservation Initiative in his proposed capital budget last week in effort to further the county’s farmland preservation program and encourage municipalities to work together to do so.
“One of the many things that makes Suffolk County incredible is our unparalleled farmland, and Suffolk was a pioneer when it came to preserving farmland,” Bellone said during a press conference at the Garden of Eve Farm in Riverhead on August 3.
Throughout the county, 20,000 acres of farmland have been preserved over the last 47 years, but there is still more to save as the value of real estate only continues to rise.
“Despite the ongoing pandemic, we moved full steam ahead with our first in the nation farmland preservation program and today we are committed to preserve the remaining 10,000 acres to ensure farming is forever cemented as part of the fabric of Suffolk County,” Bellone said.
The county will also partnering with state officials, who announced on Thursday that more than $21.3 million is being awarded to strengthen the agricultural industry through grants, including nearly $1.95 million to the Peconic Land Trust for the preservation of the Condzella family farm in Wading River.
Agriculture is essential to Long Island’s economic development and its way of life, Bellone said. With 560 farms up and running still, the industry accounts for $226 million in sales annually and drives tourism. The county executive reports that Suffolk ranks fourth in New York State in total market value for agricultural goods produced.
Suffolk farms also provide jobs for more than 4,600 people.
The county spearheaded farmland preservation efforts, starting in 1974 with the creation of the Farmland Development Rights program, the first of its kind in the nation. Since then, the county has preserved more than 11,000 acres, while other municipalities, including the five East End towns, have preserved 9,000 acres.
So far this year, the county has preserved 143.5 acres, including the Wells family farm in Aquebogue.
According to Bellone’s statement, farmland preservation expenditures are investments in Suffolk County’s long-term future. “It enhances the economic viability of the farming operation and keeps them in permanent production. These farms continue serving as the power-horses of Suffolk County’s economy, while preserving the County’s natural resources and remaining on the tax rolls,” the statement concluded.
County officials will be working with the East End town supervisors, who oversee the use of the Community Preservation Fund about meeting goals throughout the region. Farmers can also sign-up for the program. An application can be found here.
The state’s Farmland Protection Implementation Grants program awarded money for 23 projects to preserve 7,890 acres.
“Farming has long been a critical component of New York State’s economy – working to support our farmers and preserve our farmland makes good economic and environmental sense,” Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said. “The awards given through this program will give farmers much-needed support to conserve land and diversify their operations to expand market opportunities, so they can continue to produce and sell some of the finest foods available.”
Since 2018, New York State has made available more than $125 million for farmland protection statewide.
Applications are still being accepted for the grant money. Click here to for information on how to apply.