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.
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. Between 2001 and 2016, Cayuga County has helped secure $12,602,562 in funds to protect a total of 7,292.48 acres on 13 farms in the Towns of Aurelius, Cato, Fleming, Scipio and Springport. This active farmland is now protected by permanent conservation easements; and these easements are currently held, monitored, and enforced by the New York Agricultural Land Trust.
In 2018, two additional farms received funding from NYSDAM to protect 598.70 acres in the Towns of Aurelius, Brutus, and Fleming. These two projects are not yet under contract, but once complete there will be a total of 7,891.18 acres of protected farmland in Cayuga County.
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:
- the viability of the agricultural land;
- the degree of development pressure on the land; and
- the potential of the land to act as a buffer to significant natural public resources.
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. 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 & Economic Development (County Planning). 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.
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 special zoning techniques, comprehensive and infrastructure planning, establishing local right-to-farm laws, and leasing development rights.