Holstein calves. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times

Three area dairy farms were among the beneficiaries of new state funds that will help preserve their operations in exchange for the prohibition of non-farm development on their land.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced last week that the state has allocated $18.6 million to 25 dairy farms through a recent round of funds from the Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program, which is expected to conserve 10,253 acres of farmland. The program helps finance conservation easements, which would prohibit nonfarm development, facilitated by land trusts, municipalities, counties and soil and water conservation districts on land owned by producers who want to transfer ownership of their dairy farms, diversify or shift to another sector of agriculture. The goal is to ensure the long-term protection of farmland.

The Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust was awarded $880,678 for finance and easement on 721 acres of Huntley Farm, Pierrepont; $468,878 for an easement on 323 acres of Northrop & Sons Farm, Rodman; and $301,184 for an easement on 156 acres of Nemeth Farms, Martinsburg, as well as any associated costs. The state also awarded the trust $417,690 for an easement on 236 acres of Groeslon Farms, Remsen.

Jonathan J. “JJ” Schell, the trust’s associate director, said all three north country farms contacted him expressing interest in establishing an easement on most of their land, adding that their owners all plan to transfer ownership to the next generation. The payment farmers receive for selling their development rights equate to the difference between the appraised value of their land before and after the easement. Mr. Schell said the payments can help farmers finance equipment purchases, new barns and enhancements that improve efficiency.

“This money awarded to these farmers for the value of their development rights is put back into the economy,” he said.

The state has allocated $30.7 million through the Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program for conservation easements for 15,102 acres of dairy farm land since early 2018, including $1.7 million for the Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust to preserve 740 acres on a Trenton dairy farm. The program has been tooled specifically to dairy farms in the past couple of years, but it previously helped finance easements for land on other types of farms, such as allocating $1.8 million to preserve 1,309 acres of Robbins Family Grain in Hounsfield.

Another round of funds for the program pertaining solely to dairy farmers has been launched, and eligible entities can apply for up to $2 million per project, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

“In our mission statement, it says we are protecting working farms and forestland,” Mr. Schell said. “It’s a win for farmers, and it’s a win for the land trust.”

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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