Like most funding processes, it all starts with an application.
Then the applicants for farm preservation funding have to submit their conservation plans.
After that, the York County Agricultural Land Preservation Board begins qualifying the applicants.
"It can take years to get a farm preserved," said Patty McCandless, program director of the
county's preservation board.
Rankings: The 66 farms on the county's waiting list are ranked based on several factors -- land use, soil quality, development pressure, farmland potential and clustering. The latter yields points based on the applicant farm's proximity to other farms.
Of those factors, soil quality makes up 40 percent of a farm's total score. The other factors combine for the remaining 60 percent of the score.
Additionally, the board requires farms be productive, earning more than $10,000 per year in gross income.
Farms that typically make the cut are in "ag-secure areas," meaning they are close to other productive farms, McCandless said.
"The beauty of farmland protection is the ripple effect it has on the region. It brings a sense of permanence to land use. When we buy easements, we put in deed restrictions that zoning cannot lift," she said.
York County's preservation board won't spend more than $4,500 per acre on easements, she said.
Budget cuts: Because of budget cuts, the board has reduced the number of farms it safeguards in a year. At one point, when the county designated millions for preservation efforts, the board was able to protect 24 farms a year.
With shrinking state and federal funds, and a county investment of $140,000, the board will probably preserve three farms this year, McCandless said.
Once the board chooses those farms and agrees to an easement price, the landowner gets a check.
But the costs don't end there for the board.
Current state law requires the county board to visit preserved farms annually to make sure they're still being used for agriculture.
A House bill introduced by state Rep. Ron Miller, R-Jacobus, is working to change that. Miller's proposal requires inspections every two years instead of annually.
"The farm community is so honest we don't need to check on them every year," Miller said. "And with shrinking resources, it will be less money the county has to designate for inspections."
-- Reach Candy Woodall at 505-5437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.