NYS Agriculture & Markets: Saratoga PLAN completes farmland protection projects in record-setting time
AGRICULTURE COMMISSIONER HIGHLIGHTS SUCCESS OF NEW GRANT PROCESS TO HELP FARMERS PRESERVE LAND Process Improved to Drastically Reduce the Contract Timeframe and Complete Farmland Protection Projects Faster Saratoga PLAN Completes Projects in Record-Setting Time
New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard A. Ball today highlighted the improved Farmland Protection Implementation Grant (FPIG) process, which has been streamlined to help local land partners and farmers across the state drastically reduce the contract timeframe and complete farmland conservation projects faster. Saratoga PLAN is the first awardee to receive its grant using the revised contract milestones process, completing two farmland conservation easements in Saratoga County within six months. The process, in previous rounds, has averaged nearly four years.
“Today’s announcement is a huge step in preserving the most valuable resource that exists for farmers, and now, we’re proud to say we’ve made it easier and faster to receive funding so projects can get done in a timelier manner,” said Commissioner Ball. “Farmland protection is important because New York is home to some of the best agricultural land in the country. Farms are teeming with economic activity and Governor Cuomo believes it is imperative that we protect the state’s farmland for the next generation of New Yorkers.”
Under the revised process, the number of documents required to complete a project has been reduced and the overall process has been streamlined. In addition, the Department of Agriculture and Markets, which administers the FPIG program, now provides several partial payments to ensure that projects will remain on target for completion under a more practical timeframe.
Saratoga PLAN applied for funding through the program and received $1,813,084 million to protect 516 acres of farmland in Saratoga County from future development and maintain the land’s use for agricultural purposes. The projects will help landowners protect at-risk farmland through the use of perpetual conservation easements. In the Town of Ballston, $968,471 was provided to Saratoga PLAN to permanently protect the Wm. H. Buckley Farm, a 252-acre livestock operation, which includes an onsite farm-store, café and butcher shop.
In the Town of Stillwater, $844,613 was used to help permanently protect 264 acres of farmland owned by Joe and Amanda Cocozzo that borders the Saratoga National Historic Park and a portion of the Old Champlain Canal. The property is rented by Welcome Stock Farm. The Open Space Institute contributed $260,000 and the Town of Stillwater contributed an additional $22,000 towards this project.
Maria Trabka, Executive Director of Saratoga PLAN, said, “Saratoga County has a diverse and vibrant agricultural industry, and conserving this economic base is critical to its future. PLAN feels honored to have had the opportunity to work with the Cocozzo’s and the Sacco’s, both highly motivated landowners, to help them realize their dreams for the future of their farms.”
Mark Sacco, owner of Wm. H. Buckley Farm, said, “Not only is today an important day for the Buckley Farm, but it’s also an important day for the entire community. Many fought hard to preserve this 300-acre farm, and today we’ve accomplished just that. The grant funds from New York State will allow our farm to continue growing; retiring debt, creating jobs within this community, and producing beef, pork, poultry and eggs that are sold directly to the public from our farm butcher shop and café.”
Joe Cocozzo, owner of Cocozzo Farm, said, “We feel it is very important to keep our property as a working farm and to provide a historic backdrop for the Saratoga Battlefield, both for the community and as something special for our family to use.”
In October 2014, Governor Cuomo announced $17.6 million in funding to protect more than 6,400 acres of farmland across New York State through Round 13 of the Farmland Protection Implementation Program. In total, the funding will help preserve 21 farms in 12 counties across the state, and bring the total acreage under the program to approximately 59,000 acres. Since 1996, New York has awarded nearly $195 million for farmland protection projects, assisting 223 projects with local partners in 29 counties.
Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner said, “I would like to thank Governor Cuomo for his continued leadership and support of land preservation. His efforts here, in conjunction with the work of Saratoga PLAN, will greatly benefit both Saratoga County and the State of New York for generations to come.”
Kim Elliman, President and CEO of the Open Space Institute, said, “The protection of the Cocozzo Farm is a huge win-win-win. Not only does this transaction achieve significant agricultural protection, but also ensures the viewshed of the Saratoga National Historic Park and bridges a gap in the trail system, bringing improved access and myriad recreational opportunities. We would like to thank the Cocozzo Family, Saratoga PLAN and the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets for sharing in this critical vision, and helping to make it happen.”
David Haight, New York State Director of the American Farmland Trust, said, “American Farmland Trust applauds these farm families for protecting their land, and to Saratoga PLAN and the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets for completing these projects so quickly. New York is at an important time as Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature allocated the most funding for protecting farmland in the state’s history this year. We look forward to working with farmers, and local and state leaders to capitalize on these opportunities as we get closer to the 20th Anniversary of state farmland protection funding in 2016.”
The Farmland Protection Implementation Program is administered through the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. Municipalities, counties, soil and water conservation districts, and not-for-profit conservation organizations or land trusts, were eligible to apply for individual grants under the Round 13 Farmland Protection Implementation Grants competitive program.