Federal Funds to Enable Major Farmland Preservation Effort

Tuesday, April 9, 2013 -- Scenic Hudson

Jay Burgess
Director of Communications, Scenic Hudson, Inc.
Tel: (845) 473-4440 x222 Cell: (914) 489-0362 Fax: (845) 473-0740

Partnership protects 1,265 acres on 7 farms in Dutchess, Columbia counties

HUDSON VALLEY—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 today 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.

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.

The conservation easements (also called purchase of development rights) enable preservation of:

Two Red Hook (Dutchess County) farms

  • Two farms spanning more than 300 acres in Red Hook, Dutchess County, offer some of the most fertile and productive land in all of Dutchess County. Scenic Hudson partnered with DLC, the Town of Red Hook and Dutchess County to secure the easements. Both farms lie within the "Red Hook Breadbasket," identified in the Dutchess County Agriculture and Farmland Protection Program as one of the county's most important agricultural areas. One of the farms is a major grower of produce for local and New York City markets and restaurants and also features a class C trout steam, the Saw Kill Creek. The other farm grows crops that support a nearby cattle operation.

Five Columbia County farms

  • Agricultural lands totaling more than 950 acres on five Columbia County farms—three in Stuyvesant and one each in Taghkanic and Livingston. Scenic Hudson partnered with CLC 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.

Farmland essential to sustaining communities' agriculture-based economies, rural charm

All of these transactions are part of Scenic Hudson's collaborative campaign to Save the Land That Matters Most and accomplish priority conservation goals of CLC and DLC as well. Red Hook and Stuyvesant are among the agricultural communities where the organizations have been engaged in protecting a "critical mass" of working farmland. 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. In Dutchess County, nearly 10,000 acres were lost. 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.

Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan said, "These farms include multigenerational family businesses and also new, young farmers looking to succeed. Hudson Valley and New York City residents are increasingly aware of the need for a secure source of fresh, healthy food. Collaborative initiatives like this—and it's really the partners coming together that make this work—preserve farmland while also giving family farm operations capital to invest in enhancing their businesses. Our success today comes from great partnerships—with the USDA Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program, Columbia Land Conservancy, Dutchess Land Conservancy, Dutchess County, Town of Red Hook and the New York State Conservation Partnership Program—and a shared commitment to ensuring that local farming continues to support the health and economies of our region.

"I want to particularly thank USDA's New York State Conservationist Don Pettit for his leadership and Congressman Chris Gibson and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand for their roles as champions of farmland preservation through the Farm Bill. County Executive Marc Molinaro and Red Hook Supervisor Sue Crane, your vision has been vital. And to our farm families, thanks for all you do and the benefits you bring our communities," added Mr. Sullivan.

NRCS State Conservationist Donald J. Pettit praised the effective public-private partnership at work in the Hudson Valley. "Great collaboration is at the heart of what we celebrate today. We're very pleased to play a role by using the Farm Bill, Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program to ensure this region has lasting farming viability. It's great to see Farm Bill funding spurring other investment and protecting more than 1,200 acres of productive farmland."

"CLC is working hard to ensure that agriculture remains a dynamic part of Columbia County's landscape, identity and economy," said CLC Executive Director Peter Paden. "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."

"DLC is proud to support our farmers—who work so hard, day in and day out, to keep the land in production—by helping them ensure their priceless farmland is protected. They are the producers of our local food and stewards of our incredibly rich rural agricultural landscape and some of our most incredible scenic views," said DLC President Becky Thornton. "We are also thrilled to be working hand in hand with our sister organizations: Scenic Hudson, which has shown such leadership in protecting critically important land up and down the Hudson Valley, and with Columbia Land Conservancy, whose programs are proactively helping to keep farmers on the land. Red Hook has also been an incredible partner and a leader in protecting its local farms, Dutchess County is contributing as well, and we couldn't achieve the protection of these farms without the USDA's wonderful support."

Elaborating on the importance of farmland preservation, Town of Red Hook Supervisor Sue Crane said, "Red Hook's long-standing commitment to preservation of our farms and rural landscapes has resulted in saving more than 5,000 acres. The community recognizes the importance of protecting our primary industry, farming. Simultaneously preserved are rural landscapes, wetlands, forests and diverse habitats, all of which inspire pride in the place we call home. We are privileged to partner with the USDA, Dutchess Land Conservancy, Scenic Hudson and Dutchess County by protecting for future generations productive farms with irreplaceable prime soils. We all are increasingly aware of the importance of investing in locally grown sources of food."

"Since its inception in 2000, the Dutchess County Partnership for Manageable Growth has helped preserve and protect nearly 2,500 acres of active farmland and over 400 acres of publicly accessible open space," said Dutchess County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro. "The success of the program has come from the strength of our partnerships, and we were very pleased to again partner with Scenic Hudson, Dutchess Land Conservancy, the Town of Red Hook, as well as the USDA to preserve Greig Family Farm in Red Hook. Agriculture continues to be a core part of Dutchess County's economy, and Greig Farm is a key part of the growing 'Farm to Table' movement."

"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," said Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chairman Pat Grattan. "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."

U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, an advocate for protecting farmland, said, "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."

"Our farms in the Hudson Valley are the breadbasket of the region and add tens of millions of dollars to the local economy," said U.S. Rep Sean Patrick Maloney. "I'm proud to support this public-private partnership that will grow our region's economy while protecting the rich agricultural history of the Hudson Valley."

"New York is home to some of the nation's hardest working farmers and the world's finest agricultural products," said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, the first New York senator to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee in four decades. "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."

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. Scenic Hudson and DLC in 2011 partnered on conservation easements on eight farms spanning 440 acres in Red Hook. These efforts to preserve agricultural lands support the Town of Red Hook's Comprehensive Plan, Open Space Plan and Community Preservation Project Plan, all of which prioritize farmland preservation. The Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program administered by NRCS is fueling a strong expansion of preserved farmland in the Hudson Valley.

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.

"The Land Trust Alliance is pleased that the Environmental Protection Fund, through the New York State Conservation Partnership Program, has been able to invest in this collaboration. We commend Scenic Hudson, Dutchess Land Conservancy and Columbia Land Conservancy for developing a model for conserving productive farmland that also supports local farm families and strengthens agriculture in the Hudson Valley," said Ethan Winter, NY Conservation manager, Land Trust Alliance.

"The Conservation Partnership Program grants demonstrate New York's continued commitment to the local land trusts. I am pleased to see that the Environmental Protection Fund was used to protect farmland dedicated to providing clean air, water, food and places of recreation to the communities they serve," said Assemblymember Kevin Cahill.

"The benefits of viable farms and protected farmland are undisputed—investments in land conservation boost property values and protect public health while supporting local businesses. That is why I voted to increase funding for the Environmental Protection Fund and to restore funding for research to enhance farm viability in the state budget," said state Senator Terry Gipson. "The projects announced today were in part enabled by a small grant from the state's Conservation Partnership Program through the Environmental Protection Fund. I look forward to continuing support for this and other EPF programs that protect our agricultural economy."

About Columbia Land Conservancy

Columbia Land Conservancy is the only conservation organization focused exclusively on conserving the rich and abundant farmland, forests and wildlife habitat of Columbia County, strengthening connections between people and the land. CLC owns or manages 10 Public Conservation Areas that constitute a public park system for the county. It has helped some 200 local families protect 22,890 acres of land. In addition, CLC works to support and strengthen agriculture by matching landowners looking to have their land farmed with farmers seeking land and through a voluntary corps of experienced farmers who mentor landowners and new farmers. CLC also assists the county and its towns in a variety of land use planning efforts.

About Dutchess Land Conservancy

Dutchess Land Conservancy is a private, nonprofit land conservation organization dedicated to preserving the scenic, agricultural and environmental resources of Dutchess County, including open spaces, forests, water resources and wildlife habitats. DLC has a long history of success working with partners to preserve this area's rural landscape. Since 1985 DLC has worked with local landowners to protect over 35,000 acres of critical resource rich land including approximately 21,500 acres of farmland. An accredited land trust, DLC has been successful in leveraging millions of private, town, county, state and federal dollars to preserve farms. Over the past 10 years, DLC has on average completed 18 transactions annually protecting approximately 1,900 acres each year. DLC also works with municipalities to help acquire and protect important land for passive parks like the culturally and ecologically significant Dover Stone Church Preserve in Dover Plains; works to educate people about important environmental, conservation and stewardship matters; and provides professional land planning assistance to private landowners and towns to encourage environmentally sound planning.

About Scenic Hudson—Celebrating Our 50th Anniversary in 2013

Scenic Hudson works to protect and restore the Hudson River and its majestic landscape as an irreplaceable national treasure and a vital resource for residents and visitors. A crusader for the valley since 1963, we are credited with saving fabled Storm King Mountain from a destructive industrial project and launching the modern grass-roots environmental movement. Today with more than 25,000 ardent supporters, we are the largest environmental group focused on the Hudson River Valley. Our team of experts combines land acquisition, support for agriculture, citizen-based advocacy and sophisticated planning tools to create environmentally healthy communities, champion smart economic growth, open up riverfronts to the public and preserve the valley's inspiring beauty and natural resources. To date Scenic Hudson has created or enhanced more than 50 parks, preserves and historic sites up and down the Hudson River and conserved over 30,000 acres.

Scenic Hudson's ongoing campaign to Save the Land That Matters is a multi-year, collaborative effort with fellow land trusts, governments, individuals and businesses to protect lands of the highest scenic, ecological and agricultural significance throughout the Hudson Valley. In addition to providing the cornerstone of a sustainable economy for the region, protected lands help attract new business. A recent study by the Trust for Public Land notes that executives looking to relocate or start up firms rank quality of life—including an abundance of parks and open space—higher than housing, cost of living and good schools. To date, the Saving the Land That Matters Most initiative has conserved more than 6,800 acres. www.sh50.org and www.scenichudson.org


Dutchess County farms protected

  • Greig Farm (160 acres) in Red Hook leased to farmer Ken Migliorelli for vegetable production. Migliorelli Farms provides fresh produce regionally and to the NYC GreenMarkets. This leased land is a key part of a nearly 1,000-acre operation. The parcel includes a section of the class C trout stream, Saw Kill Creek.
  • Kalina Farm (150 acres) in Red Hook leased by another farmer who uses the land for growing corn, grains and hay to support a cattle operation. Part of the patent granted by the British Crown to Henry Beekman in 1697, the property was leased in the 18th century to Palatine tenant farmer Jost Hendrick Scheffer, who created the agricultural landscape surviving to this day.

With these lands conserved, a total of 3,315 acres and 53 percent of Red Hook's farmland has been permanently protected. This includes almost 2,744 acres preserved by Scenic Hudson on 24 farms. Scenic Hudson partnered with DLC on 10 of these projects. DLC has conserved an additional 463 acres of farmland in partnership with the state, county and Town of Red Hook.

Columbia County farms to be 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.