Agriculture and FarmlandProtectionPlanGeneseeCounty FarmlandProtectionPlan EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The best farmland land protection program cannot, by itself, save the business of agriculture when no attention is paid to the economics of local farming. By the same token, the erosion of the land base it needs to operate can undermine the best economic development efforts and skillful farm managers. When development pressure and weak land use controls artificially inflate productive land values, then agricultural communities are vulnerable. And vice versa, the will to take these steps to sustain farmland will depend in large part on the viability of the agricultural industry in GeneseeCounty. The Background section of this plan looks at what is currently available in the farmland protection toolbox in the state of New York. These include agricultural districts that bring rightto-farm protections to operations, layers of tax relief, and a statewide purchase-of-developments program, which is presently only modestly funded but is expected to grow. Participation in that program requires a planning effort such as the one reflected in this entire document including the economic development components. Looking beyond GeneseeCountyand New York State, the Findings sections summarizes the variety of tools in the farmland protection toolbox. At the local level, planning and zoning techniques are critical. When an area strives to sustain its agricultural economy and protect farmland, these objectives should be reflected in the planning and zoning process. The communities around the nation making the greatest strides to protect the land base for their agricultural industry are those who employ a combination of techniques. The case studies present some modifications and creative applications of the basic tools by communities around the country. Each illustrates a point of some relevance to GeneseeCounty as its designs its local initiatives. This section also outlines the issues to consider with GeneseeCounty’s participation in the State Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) Program. A set of eligibility criteria and a ranking formula for GeneseeCounty are included in the first Appendix. Finally, the thoughts of the agriculture community, collected in a series of interviews, are summarized. When it comes to planning for the protection of its agricultural land base, GeneseeCounty has several strengths not always present when a community puts it’s mind to this complex task. Namely, GeneseeCounty contains a combination of excellent soils and climate conditions, along with strong economic indicators for industry viability. Agriculture remains a major economic force in the county and is home to some very large operations as well as many smaller ones. At the same time, suburban development (along with its inevitable fragmentation and land use conflicts) is only beginning to occur. It is a moment in time when the potential threat to a critical mass of farmland is present but is not yet overwhelming. That means that there is time for GeneseeCountyand its towns to better prepare themselves for the next ten to fifteen years – perhaps ‘to change in order to stay the same’. Based on an analysis of the GeneseeCounty’s current situation this plan recommends a significant ramping up of the Countyand towns’ farmland protection efforts. They include: Columbia MD 1
GeneseeCounty, New York RECOMMENDATION 1: Refine the Strategic Farmland Map and incorporate it into the Smart Growth Plan. The map itself should become a companion to the Smart Growth Planand be used with it to inform town decision-making on land use and infrastructure issues. RECOMMENDATION 2: Reaffirm the importance of existing agricultural districts especially with regard to water and sewer extensions. The decision of one or more towns to allow lateral access without extenuating circumstances could create a precedent that endangers agricultural district integrity as well as other farmland protection measures throughout the county. RECOMMENDATION 3: Conduct an ‘audit’ of each town’s zoning and subdivision provisions and recent past development patterns to help the towns understand the potential impact on maintaining a critical mass of farmland. Once the audits are conducted the CountyPlanning Department and the Agriculture and FarmlandProtection Board should host a summit of all town officials to present results and discuss alternatives. RECOMMENDATION 4: Consider the designation of an ‘agricultural production zone’. The concentration of large, highly-productive farms in GeneseeCounty as well as smaller farms clustered together may lend themselves to a designation of a zone to protect the land’s ‘highest and best use’ – production agriculture. RECOMMENDATION 5: Consider use of incentive zoning as a mitigation tool. Take the opportunity with incentive zone to leverage protected land or protection funds when upzoning land within the Smart Growth Development areas. RECOMMENDATION 6: Develop new funding sources specifically for a farmland protection fund. See farmland protection as ‘avoidance of future infrastructure costs, find ways now to tap the engine of the coming develop, and protect the investment you make. RECOMMENDATION 7: Create ‘Enhanced Agricultural District Program’ for mid-term protection of Farmland. Involves a voluntary commitment to restrict non-farm development for a period of 10 years, with automatic re-enrollment, in exchange for annual payments and priority in GeneseeCounty's participation in the state's PDR program. RECOMMENDATION 8: Prepare to Purchase Development Rights. Set an acreage goal, develop dedicated revenue sources, refine the selection components, and position GeneseeCounty, with its exceptional resources to make maximum use of increasing State PDR funding. RECOMMENDATION 9: Integrate a farmland protection component into the County’s public education efforts about agriculture. RECOMMENDATION 10: Conduct periodic estate planning seminars for farmers and professionals. RECOMMENDATION 11: Advocate for implementation of the Agriculture Development Plan. 2 Agriculture and Community Development Services, Inc.