Last week Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced $30 million is available statewide to support conservation easement projects on dairy farms. New York’s dairy farmers have been challenged with prolonged low milk prices, increasing the threat of the conversion of viable agricultural land to non-farm development. Funding through the state’s Farmland Protection Implementation Grants Program will ensure farms the opportunity to diversify their operations or transition their farm to the next generation at a more affordable cost while ensuring the land forever remains used for agricultural purposes.
“New York’s dairy industry is critical to local economies across the state and we must ensure that our dairy farmers have the resources they need to thrive among the challenges of the current marketplace,” Governor Cuomo said. “This funding will help to protect dairy farmers by providing them with additional options to upgrade their operations and keep them running and prosperous for generations to come.”
“Dairy farms are a critical component of our upstate agricultural economy,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “We understand the struggle facing so many dairy farmers in communities across upstate New York. By investing state funding to support farmland protection, we are laying the groundwork for more jobs and increased stability for family farms. Today’s announcement is just the latest in our efforts to promote New York’s world-class farm products.”
Ensuring that the viable agricultural land base of an operating farm is protected from conversion to non-farm uses is essential to the long-term viability and sustainability of New York’s agricultural industry. The largest sector of the agricultural industry, New York’s dairy industry is a critical component of the state’s economy, accounting for approximately one-half of its on-farm production, support services, and value-added products. New York State is home to approximately 4,500 farms with 620,000 cows, producing 14.9 billion pounds of milk. New York ranks third in the production of milk and is first in the nation in the production of other products such as yogurt and cottage cheese.
The state is issuing a Request for Applications for farmland protection grants of up to $2 million from eligible entities, such as land trusts, municipalities, county agricultural and farmland protection boards, and State Soil and Water Conservation Districts. There is no application deadline.
Conservation easement projects will be awarded to eligible farms that are:
- Transitioning to the next ownership of a continuing dairy, but whose operation has been modified to ensure greater financial sustainability.
- Continuing dairy, but diversifying the overall farm operation.
- Converting to a non-dairy farm operation.
All farmland protection project proposals must be submitted electronically through the New York State Grants Gateway.