Farmers would be subject to fewer property inspections, thereby easing the burden on counties and on farmers under a bill proposed by a York County lawmaker.
State Rep. Ron Miller, R-Jacobus, wants farms to be inspected for easement compliance every other year instead of annually, saying most farmers "are good, honest people" who respect the law, so there is no need for annual inspections and the associated costs incurred by the counties.
The state purchases easements to prevent future development on the property. Under the state's Agricultural Area Security Law, they allow farms to preserve farmland. Farmers using those easements have to get inspections to make sure they are following guidelines for using the property, such as the strict subdivision, structure and usage rules.
The bill was passed out of the House Agriculture Affairs Committee and is now in the Appropriations Committee. It amends the Agricultural Area Security Law regarding easement regulations.
How it works: York County's inspections are performed by the Land Preservation Board, which has two inspectors to go through more than 250 farms a year. It's difficult to keep up, said board director Patricia McCandless, although every farm does get its inspection each year.
Inspecting farms every two years would cut the workload, which means fewer tax dollars spent on gas and on items such as certified postage. At $6 a letter, which has to be sent for notification purposes to each farmer, the expenses can add up, McCandless said.
The board is "very much heartened" to hear the legislation is moving forward, she said. If it is passed, inspectors can devote more time to concentrate on the farms that aren't in compliance.
Many farms are doing a "great job," she said, so reducing the inspection rate won't hurt, and even so, Miller's bill allows for unannounced inspections if an easement violation is suspected. Some farms haven't changed in years, so inspections each year aren't a great use of time, she said.
"There are 40,000 acres (of farmland) ... that's an awful lot of land," to inspect each year, she said.
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