Purchase of Development Rights

A Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) is a voluntary legal agreement, or conservation easement, that restricts all future non-farm development while encouraging farming, forestry, and other land uses that are compatible with agriculture. PDRs allow land to stay in private ownership and on the tax rolls.

Farmland Protection Program

Cayuga County's Farmland Protection Program launched in 2001 with an award of over $1,000,000 dollars from New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (NYSDAM) for protection of 676 acres on the DeGroff Farm in the Town of Fleming, through the purchase of development rights on that farm. Since then, Cayuga County has secured funds, and helped Towns secure funds, to protect a total of 6,258 acres in the Towns of Aurelius, Fleming, Scipio and Springport. 

Additionally, 264 acres of farmland has been protected in the Town of Cato with assistance from Onondaga County for a project that is located in both Cato and Elbridge. A total of 12 farms are protected by permanent conservation easements that are currently held, monitored and enforced by the New York Agricultural Land Trust.

Developing Strong Partnerships

Cayuga County's success has been made possible by developing strong partnerships with our farming communities, land trusts such as the American Farmland Trust and the New York Agricultural Land Trust, and our funding partners, NYSDAM and the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). NRCS offers federal matching funds through the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program.

NYSDAM administers New York State's Farmland Protection Program, which can pay for up to 87.5% of the cost of PDRs. Properties are chosen using ranking criteria, of which there are three main priorities:

  • Degree of development pressure on the land
  • Potential of the land to act as a buffer to significant natural public resources
  • Viability of the agricultural land

Agriculture & Farmland Protection Board (AFPB)

Because the State's program is so competitive, the Cayuga County Agriculture and Farmland Protection Board (AFPB) has developed a formal process by which the Board evaluates and selects farms to submit to the State to compete for funding each year. 

Selection Process

The selection process involves a formal pre-application period, typically opened at the beginning of each year with a pre-established deadline. Interested farmers and landowners can complete and submit a simplified pre-application to the Cayuga County Department of Planning and Economic Development (County Planning). 

County Planning Reviews

County Planning then reviews and scores each pre-application using review criteria adopted by the AFPB. The scored pre-applications are presented by County Planning to the AFPB, which then selects the farms to advance to the next level. The AFPB's selected farms and copies of their pre-applications will then be sent to NYALT who will then determine which farms to partner with to submit a formal application to the State.

Submitting Proposals to the State

Some of Cayuga County's towns are also eligible to submit Farmland Protection Program proposals to the State. To that end, County Planning is working with our Towns to encourage and facilitate establishment of local Farmland Protection Programs and local sponsorship of grant proposals for purchase of development rights funds. 

PDRs through Cayuga County's Farmland Protection Program is just one of the many tools available to our local municipalities for agriculture and farmland protection. The County also administers a NYS-certified Agricultural District, assists local municipalities with local land use planning, supports agri-business and agricultural economic development, and supports the growth and enhancement of local farmers markets. 


County Planning is available to assist local town officials in protecting and enhancing their agricultural industries using tools such as:

  • Comprehensive and infrastructure planning
  • Establishing local right-to-farm laws
  • Leasing development rights
  • Special zoning techniques