The USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Scenic Hudson, Columbia Land Conservancy (CLC), Dutchess Land Conservancy (DLC), Dutchess County officials, Town of Red Hook officials, other local leaders, and farmers announced that federal Farm Bill funding has enabled Scenic Hudson and its partners to complete the purchase of conservation easements on seven working family farms in Dutchess and Columbia counties. The farms are vitally important to the region because they contribute to the production of local, healthy food and add to local economies with strong agricultural business sectors.
CLC is working hard to ensure that agriculture remains a dynamic part of Columbia County’s landscape, identity and economy. We are very pleased to have been able to partner with Scenic Hudson to bring these great projects to fruition, and we are glad to work with the Dutchess Land Conservancy to support working farms across the region. By pooling our skills and resources, we look forward to many more conservation achievements.
CLC Executive Director Peter Paden
The total cost of all seven projects is more than $5.1 million, including $2.56 million in funding from the Farm Bill, Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program, $1.5 million from Scenic Hudson, $220,000 from Dutchess County, and $445,000 from the Town of Red Hook. In addition, both DLC and CLC covered the transaction and closing costs on the farm easements. The transactions will provide a direct infusion of capital to the farmers involved, who can then invest the funds in the productive capacity of their farms. DLC will hold, monitor, and enforce the two easements in Red Hook, and CLC will do the same for four of the parcels in Columbia County, while Scenic Hudson will manage the remaining easement there.
The federal grant that made the preservation of these seven farms possible comes through the NRCS and is funded through the Farm Bill and its Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP). The FRPP provides matching funds to help purchase development rights to keep productive farm and ranch lands in agricultural use. The USDA provides up to 50 percent of the fair market easement value of the conservation easements.
It is innovative partnerships like the one between Scenic Hudson, CLC, DLC, NRCS and local officials that enable us to ensure that we protect our farmland here in the Hudson Valley. We are blessed in our region to have vibrant, active family farms, and it is critical we work together to secure their future. Conservation easements such as the ones announced today are a critical component of that effort, and I will always be a tireless advocate for these programs in Congress. I look forward to continuing to work with all the partners engaged in this critical effort.
U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson
Five Columbia County farms to be protected
The conservation easements enable preservation of agricultural lands totaling more than 950 acres on five Columbia County farms – three in Stuyvesant and one each in Taghkanic and Livingston. CLC partnered with Scenic Hudson partnered to secure the easements. These farms contain high-quality soils that supply hay and grains that are vital to other significant dairy and equine operations. Additionally, one of the farms is among the area’s largest dairy operations and several of the farms have important wetlands and streams designated for special protections by the state Department of Environmental Conservation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
New York is home to some of the nation’s hardest working farmers and the world’s finest agricultural products. Ensuring that our farmers have access to the land they need to grow their products is vitally important to the economic development and food security of New York State. Protection of these farm and ranch lands will help to strengthen the rural economies of the Hudson Valley, preserve our agricultural heritage and provide our families with high-quality food grown right in our own communities.
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
Details on the five Columbia County farms that are now permanently protected:
- Mountain View Farm (136 acres) in Stuyvesant is leased to a local dairy farmer for production of hay and corn.
- Dow & Begin’s Farm (146 acres) in Stuyvesant is contiguous with other farmlands conserved by Scenic Hudson. The farm produces high quality hay that is used by other farmers for their dairy and equine operations.
- Heron Farm (56 acres) in Stuyvesant also is contiguous with other farmland preserved by Scenic Hudson. The productive fields are leased to a large dairy farm for feed hay. A young farm family has recently acquired the farm and is looking to ramp up vegetable production and to possibly establish a day camp to teach vegetable growing to children.
- Triple Creek Farm (481 acres) in Taghkanic is a major dairy farm that supplies milk directly to the regional market as a member of the Hudson Valley Fresh cooperative. The multigenerational farm is contiguous with other lands conserved by CLC and boosts top-quality soils.
- Another 137-acre farm in Livingston leased for production of hay and grains that connects with other conserved farmlands. The property also has a spring-fed class C trout stream that is a tributary to a large wetland area.
Sustaining communities’ agriculture-based economies & rural charm
While allowing individual farmers to continue their livelihood and support agriculture-related businesses, these blocks of protected farmland help retain the towns’ historic charm and centuries-old agricultural heritage, all of which contribute substantially to the region’s $800-million agricultural and $4.3-billion tourism economies. Further, conserving farms is a buffer against rising local property taxes: Studies have shown that farms contribute more in taxes than they consume in tax-paid services.
Over the past 15 years, conservation easement programs in the Hudson Valley have put $95 million directly into the hands of farmers. This investment has allowed agriculture to continue to thrive, advanced new opportunities for young farmers, and allowed farmers to invest directly in their operations. At the same time, it has benefited communities. According to the American Farmland Trust, for every $1 invested in conservation, $4 is returned to the local economy.
Despite these benefits, farms are at increasing risk. According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, from 2002 to 2007, Columbia County lost over 13,000 acres of working farmland. As a reflection of this trend, the American Farmland Trust has identified the Hudson Valley among its listings of threatened agricultural areas in the country. Historically New York State loses 10 times more farmland to development than it protects each year.
This grant is a great boost to Columbia County agriculture. Protection of the five Columbia County farms included in this grant will help stabilize the land base for our farmers and ensure that farming remains a central part of our economic and community life. We are very grateful to these families for their commitment to farming and to Scenic Hudson and the Columbia Land Conservancy for the hard work and substantial resources they have committed to make this process successful.
Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chairman Pat Grattan
Groups responding with ramped-up collaboration
This farmland conservation initiative results from a growing collaboration among Scenic Hudson, CLC, DLC and NRCS, and builds on numerous successful joint projects in recent years. Scenic Hudson and CLC in 2011 collaborated with four groups of Stuyvesant landowners to permanently protect 399 acres with conservation easements and enabled one local farm to expand its operation. The newly announced grants support both the Town of Stuyvesant’s and the Town of Taghkanic’s Comprehensive Plans. Both plans state the importance of preserving farms and farmland.
Lands with conservation easements remain privately owned. Landowners participate voluntarily and can continue to live on, farm and enjoy their property as well as pay property taxes. Farmers often use funds from the easement purchase to reinvest in their farm operations and expand production.
Federal grant complements state investment
In addition to the new federal grant, the conservation groups already had received two other grants in 2009 and 2012. The “Conservation Catalyst” grants provide $78,000 for staff costs, with the monies coming from the New York State Conservation Partnership Program, funded through the state’s Environmental Protection Fund and administered by the Land Trust Alliance.