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Genesee County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Plan

Genesee County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Plan

Agriculture

Agriculture and Farmland Protection Plan ANALYSIS AND RECOMMENDATIONS Current Conditions When it comes to planning for the protection of its agricultural land base, Genesee County has several strengths not always present when a community puts it’s mind to this complex task. Namely, Genesee County 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 Genesee County and its towns to better prepare themselves for the next ten to fifteen years – perhaps ‘to change in order to stay the same’. Reasons for developing and implementing a Agriculture and Farmland Protection Plan include focussing attention on the resources in need of protection, devising a strategy to protect those area, and in doing so, paving the way for the County’s participation in the state’s Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) Program. The purchase of development rights on large blocks of contiguous farmland to keep the land available for agriculture well into the future is a very important tool. It will require a financial commitment from both the County and the State of New York. If it is an adequate and sustained effort, however, the local jurisdictions will reap the most benefits in avoided infrastructure costs, fiscal stability and quality of life for its residents. However, Genesee County also faces several significant challenges as it embarks on this effort. The first is that there appears to be little money available to provide the required matching local contribution to state PDR. And no single potential revenue source is obvious. The second is the poor zoning support in the agriculture districts for the long-term investment of PDR. Zoning that allows for relatively high residential densities (higher than 1:20) has the effect of eventually undermining the farm-friendly agricultural uses due to pressure over time from new suburban neighbors and it destabilizes the land surrounding those in which the community has invested in the long-term protection with PDR. The agricultural industry in Genesee County, as a whole, is vulnerable to ‘death by a thousand cuts’ because of a combination of factors: 1. Zoning that is ‘weak’ because it contains the potential for widespread residential development where agricultural production was intended. 2. The physical necessity for the water infrastructure to be run through agricultural areas tests the resolve of municipalities to limit lateral connections that would doom protection efforts. 3. The circumstance of multiple governmental entities (villages, towns and county) with land use decision-making or review authority makes the job of developing and Columbia, MD 31

Genesee County, New York implementing a unified vision for agriculture and farmland protection a daunting but not impossible task. A number of other conditions exist currently that were considered in development of implementation recommendations. The tax burden on owners of farmland, even with the preferential tax assessment, is still high relative to farmers outside of New York in the region. The higher carrying costs of the land factor into Genesee County, and perhaps all New York, farmers’ ability to be competitive. The most widely used farmland protection tools being used in the state and the in Genesee County - agricultural districts and agricultural assessment – are not directly connected. In other words, a property can be in an agricultural district without having an agricultural assessment and vice versa. And neither requires a commitment by the landowner to maintain agricultural use for any amount of time. Opting out of an agricultural district is relatively easy and penalties for conversion to non-agricultural use are minimal, thereby potentially encouraging land speculation. As demonstrated by the Cost of Community Services study in the Town of Byron, farmland pays more in local property tax (even with preferential assessments) than it receives in services. This makes farmland a ‘net tax positive’ for towns and the county. The down side of the presence of many large farm operations that own and rent thousands of acres in Genesee County is the impact of a single bankruptcy and sale for development would on a town or group of towns. Unless that land can be absorbed by other farming operations, it presents a big problem, quickly, if that scale of development is not what the town wanted or had planned for. RECOMMENDATIONS The following recommendations are tailored to Genesee County’s current situation. These ten recommendations are also informed by the experiences of other parts of the country where development threats hit sooner and faster. Genesee County is at a critical juncture. Even without enormous financial resources, it has the ability to set things in motion to be smart about absorbing future growth without sacrificing its essential agricultural identity. Farmland protection is not a destination. At its best, it is a series of coordinated steps that will need to be reassessed and adjusted as conditions change and opportunities present themselves. These are the beginning steps of a process that will grow over time. The responsibility to carry out the Farmland Protection Plan’s recommendations lies with the Agriculture and Farmland Protection Board as advocates for action, and Genesee County Planning Department for planning and zoning expertise. 32 Agriculture and Community Development Services, Inc.

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    Table of Contents Introduction 2 Me

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    Methods The methods used to prepare

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    Summary (continued) As Genesee Coun

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    Genesee County Gross Farm Sales Reb

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    Dairy and Cattle Sales Fuel Growth

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    Genesee County Farm Expenses Grow M

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    Farm Income Strength Keeps Farmers

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    Real Farm Real Estate Values Slide

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    Farm Cropland Falls Modestly in Gen

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    Dairy Farm Numbers Plummet. Number

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    Dairy Farm Size Expands in Genesee

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    Traditional Crops - Harvested Acrea

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    Specialty Crops - A Few Crops Domin

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    Specialty Crops - Greenhouse Produc

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    Number of Firms 30 25 20 15 10 Grow

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    Genesee County Farming Sectors’ O

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    Farming Sector Employment for Genes

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    Farm Output Multipliers for Genesee

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    Expenditures by the Vegetable Farm

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    Appendix: IMPLAN Analysis and Resul

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    Genesee County: Agricultural Develo

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    APPENDIX B: Project Contact List Ma

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    Genesee County: Town of Byron Cost

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    Fire District 1 46,500.00 41,850.00

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    EMPLOYEES State Retirement 500.00 7

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    Town of Byron Revenues 2000 Revenue

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    APPENDIX C: SWOT ANALYSIS Stable La

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    Sweetland Road Sumner Road Orleans

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    #· W E S Source: Genessee County P

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