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York County sends $221K to farm preservation

Greg Gross

Efforts to preserve York County farmland received a financial boost Wednesday when county commissioners approved increasing its allocation for 2016.

The $221,309 in county funds earmarked to its Agricultural Land Preservation Board this year will be used to purchase farmland easements. That's a roughly $60,000 increase over the $164,000 in received in 2015.

At that level of funding, the county expects to see a $1.2 million state match, bringing the total allocation for local efforts to $1.4 million, Patty McCandless, director of the preservation board, said.

"We estimate we could preserve an additional 530 acres with that money," she told commissioners.

Last year the state kicked in $1.1 million for the program.

Streams: This year's round of county funding will come from three different streams. About $71,000 is from Clean & Green Rollback interest, $50,000 is from the county Solid Waste Authority and the remaining $100,000 is from the Marcellus Shale Legacy Fund, which is funded through impact fees charged to natural gas drilling companies.

Since the county launched its preservation board about 25 years ago, easements for 273 farms, accounting for 41,000 acres, have been purchased. Pennsylvania leads the nation in farmland preservation and York County ranks third in the state.

The county doesn't actually own the land, but rather buys easements, which prevents land from being developed into, for example, a housing development.

There are 49 farms, totally 4,600 acres, in a backlog of farmers waiting to have their land preserved, McCandless said.

Susan Byrnes, the president commissioner, praised the efforts of McCandless and the preservation board.

"We treasure all our farmland," she said.

Other changes: In a separate motion, commissioners agreed to revise the program farmers use to donate their easements to the county.

The application fee, which covers the cost for the county to research land deeds, dropped from $1,000 to $250, the cost to research deeds.

It allows farmers with land outside of growth areas to donate their lands, changes zoning requirements and allows the preservation board to seek additional public and private dollars.

Since 2012, easements for four farms, totally 20,000 acres, have been donated to the county, McCandless said.

Farmland preservation is a key component to ensuring the county's farming heritage and the ability to produce local food will always be around.

"We want to make sure we are continuing our program so we can feed ourselves locally," she said.

— Reach Greg Gross at