MECHANICSBURG, PA — At the Deckman family farm in Cumberland County today, Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding announced an $11.9 million investment in food security by safeguarding 4,432 acres on 48 farms in 25 counties through the state’s nation-leading farmland preservation program. County governments invested an additional $2 million in the farms preserved today, bringing the total investment to $13.9 million.
“Agricultural development and farmland preservation are inextricably tied to food security and nutrition, it’s critical to increasing the quantity and diversity of food and driving economic transformation,” said Secretary Redding. “The acreage preserved today is an act of looking to the future food needs of Pennsylvanians, the nation, and the world. COVID-19 has placed a microscope on the availability of food, our most basic need. Preserving farmland is the first step to ensuring food is available tomorrow.”
Today’s announcement was held in Mechanicsburg at the 55-acre Deckman Farm, one of the 48 farms preserved by Pennsylvania’s Agricultural Land Preservation Board.
“Pennsylvania continues to lead the nation in the number of farms and acres permanently preserved in agriculture production,” said Cumberland County Commissioner Vince DiFilippo. “Our state must continue to be a leader and to safeguard the investment made to Pennsylvania agriculture.”
According to a 2020 American Farmland Trust report, Farms Under Threat, Pennsylvania lost an alarming 244,000 acres to housing development from 2001 to 2016. This loss was countered by permanently preserving 347,000 acres of farmland during that same time period. Since the inception of Pennsylvania’s Farmland Preservation Program in 1988, the state has preserved more than 5,700 farms and 584,000 acres of Pennsylvania’s agricultural land for perpetuity with a more than $1.6 billion investment.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown many Pennsylvanians empty grocery store shelves for the first time in their life, leading to a heightened awareness of where food comes from and how it gets from farm to shelf. Access to farmland is vital to food security and meeting demands in both a regular and crisis climate.
In 2019, an agriculture research study funded by the department and conducted by Dr. Thomas Daniels, University of Pennsylvania, found the total economic impact of farmland preservation in Pennsylvania to be valued from $1.8 to $2.9 billion annually. The report also concluded environmental benefits of farmland preservation to be estimated at an additional $1.9 billion annually. Through his research, Dr. Daniels found that farmland contributes more in tax dollars than in demands in services.
“Pennsylvania is the leading state in farmland preservation with more than 5,700 preserved farms and 584,000 preserved acres,” said Dr. Daniels, University of Pennsylvania. “Preserved farmland helps support a multi-billion-dollar agricultural industry that is essential for providing long-term food security for the residents of the commonwealth.”
The 48 farms preserved today are in Adams, Armstrong, Berks, Bucks, Chester, Columbia, Cumberland, Erie, Franklin, Greene, Lackawanna, Lawrence, Lehigh, Luzerne, Mifflin, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Schuylkill, Somerset, Susquehanna, Washington, Wayne, Westmoreland, and York counties. Since the program began in 1988, federal, state, county, and local governments have purchased permanent easements on 5,724 farms totaling 584,487 acres in 59 counties for agricultural production.
The farms preserved today include crop, fruit and vegetable, dairy, nursery, beef and livestock operations.
Notable farmland preserved includes 148.86-acre Clayholm Farms, LLC., one of the largest remaining dairy operations in Armstrong County. The Clayholm farm faced hardship during COVID-19 when having to dump their milk due to market loss. The family will be using farmland preservation funds to help offset losses.
Berks County hit a milestone of 75,000 preserved acres after the preservation of a 68.80-acre crop farm, Son-Rise Farm, LLC.
Woodward Brothers Inc. Farm, located next to the historical site of the Battlefield of Brandywine dating back to the Revolutionary War, preserved a 50.74-acre crop farm in Chester County.
A full list of farms preserved:
- The Diane & Ronald Resh Farm #32, a 201-acre fruit and vegetable farm
- Clayholm Farms, LLC, a 149-acre dairy farm
- The Marlene E. Blatt Farm #1, a 53-acre crop farm
- The Nelson R. & Anna S. Brubaker Farm #2, a 72-acre crop and livestock farm
- The Nevin M. & Pauline B. Brubaker Farm, a 27-acre crop farm
- The Richard C. & Kathleen Dietrich Farm, an 81-acre crop farm
- The Beverly A. Schrack Farm, a 150-acre crop and livestock farm
- Son-Rise View, LLC, a 67-acre crop-farm
- The Paul B. & Geraldine S. Zimmerman Farm #4, a 24-acre crop farm
- The Harry & Joan B. Bohlman Farm, a 23-acre nursery farm
- The Frank Palmer & Shirley J. Durborow Farm, a 13-acre livestock farm
- Scott Farm Estates, LLC, a 69-acre crop farm
- Woodward Brothers, Inc., a 51-acre crop farm
- The Larry A. & Deborah K. Rhoads Farm #2, a 75-acre crop and livestock farm
- The Donald E. & Linda K. Mackey Farm, a 131-acre crop farm
- The Marian R. Deckman Living Trust Farm, a 55-acre crop farm
- The Leroy J. Strohm Farm, a 121-acre crop farm
- The Ward Family Trust Farm, a 155-acre crop and livestock farm
- The John E. & Patricia J. Pfadt Farm, a 56-acre crop and livestock farm
- The Mark D. Troyer Farm #1, a 313-acre crop farm
- Ricecrest Farms #2, a 51-acre crop farm
- The Williams A. & Lura Ann Cree Farm #2, an 83-acre dairy operation
- The Benjamin E. & Allison M. Nogan Farm #1, a 206-acre crop and livestock farm
- The Whiting Family Limited Partnership Farm, a 132-acre beef operation
- The Kurt J. & Alyssa J. Gerhard Farm, a 21-acre crop farm
- L.E.T. Farms, Inc., a 48-acre crop farm
- The Scott & Jill K. Mittl Farm, a 13-acre crop farm
- The Reinert Farm, an 82-acre crop and livestock farm
- The Walter H. Snyder Jr. Farm, a 58-acre crop farm
- The Gary & Cathy Moyer Farm, a 106-acre crop and livestock farm
- The Leon Donahey Farm #1, 100-acre crop and livestock farm
- The Brian S. & Kathy L. Beidleman Farm, a 25-acre crop farm
- The Suzanne Banyacsky Farm #1, a 24-acre crop farm
- The Thomas Latshaw Farm #1, a 61-acre crop farm
- The Edward B. Stokes Jr. Farm #1, a 117-acre crop farm
- The Robert A. Ackerman & Beverly A. Beahn Farm #1, a 50-acre crop farm
- The Mark R. Bickert Farm, a 23-acre crop farm
- The Jeffrey A. & Kevin M. Brewer Farm, an 80-acre crop farm
- The Frederick & Teresa Dockey Family Trust Farm, a 50-acre crop farm
- The Mark P. & Lisa I. Matyas Farm, a 99-acre crop farm
- The Larry N. & Marion J. Van Horn Farm, a 53-acre crop farm
- The Nelson W. Moyer, Machelle A. Itle, & Megan Shawver Farm, a 50-acre crop and livestock farm
- The Roger W. & David A. Latuch Farm #1, a 216-acre crop and livestock farm
- The James W. Robertson Farm, a 167-acre crop and livestock farm
- The Gary A. Danley Farm, a 53-acre crop farm
- The John Pawloski Farm #1, a 116-acre dairy operation
- The Rosa Beth Snyder-Boyd Farm #1, a 181-acre crop and livestock farm
- The Jonathan Hash Farm #1, a 282-acre crop farm
The Pennsylvania Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Program, as it is formally known, is dedicated to slowing the loss of prime farmland to non-agricultural uses. Funding allows state, county, and local governments to purchase conservation easements from owners of quality farmland. State, county, local, and federal funds committed at the meeting are allocated to county programs to purchase development rights to preserve farms on county waiting lists.
Investments in preserving farmland for future production are being further enhanced by investments Governor Tom Wolf made in establishing Pennsylvania’s first-ever PA Farm Bill in 2019. It created the Agriculture Business Development Center to support business planning, marketing, diversification, and transition planning for Pennsylvania farmers. The bill package also included a realty transfer tax exemption for the transfer of preserved farmland to a qualified beginning farmer.
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