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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. Between 2001 and 2022, Cayuga County has helped secure $17,741,555 in funds to protect a total of 9,246.84 acres on 18 farms in the Town of Aurelius, Brutus, Cato, Fleming, Ira, Scipio, Springport and Sterling. 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 (NYALT). NYSDAM administers New York State's Farmland Protection Program, which can pay for up to 87.5% of the cost of PDRs

Cayuga County's Selection Process

Once pre-applications have been received, members of the Cayuga County AFPB will review and score each farm project using criteria developed by the Board that aligns with the State’s scoring criteria. Applicants will be required to meet with County Planning staff briefly to identify both the Farmstead Area (agricultural buildings and area for future expansion) and any areas for Exclusion on a map in order to move on to the AFPB review.

The AFPB will utilize the scoring process and other relevant information to select one or more farm projects to receive the Board’s endorsement for the FPIG program and to move on to the next stage of application. 

Land trusts in CNY like the New York Agricultural Land Trust (NYALT) and the Finger Lakes Land Trust (FLLT) will review copies of AFPB supported pre-applications and determine which farms they would like to work with. The land trust will then contact property owners directly to prepare the final application to the State. Cayuga County will maintain a “pool” of supported farm pre-applications for the land trusts to choose from as funding from NYS becomes available.

After the 2021 pre-application round, farms will not need to submit a pre-application to the county each year. Only those farms who have not yet applied may submit a pre-application during the annual window. Farms that previously applied will be able to submit updated information though (e.g. parcels purchased or sold, change in farm type/operation, etc.).

Important Information & Documents

Beginning in 2008, the AFPB began requiring that all landowners applying for State funding for farmland protection MUST have completed a Tier 1 and Tier 2 worksheet in the State’s Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) Program in order to be eligible. The AFPB stands behind this decision today and maintains this eligibility requirement for landowners. The Cayuga County Soil and Water Conservation District provides Tier 1 and Tier 2 AEM services at no cost to the landowner. Please contact the District at (315) 252-4171 to go through this process prior to submission of the pre-application. CCPED staff will verify with CCSWCD staff that all applicants have completed both a Tier 1 and a Tier 2 worksheet. 

The AFPB also requires that all applicable property taxes (county, town, school, etc.) are current (paid in full or in good standing in a payment plan with the county) on all parcels listed in this pre-application in order for the applicant to be eligible for funding. CCPED staff will verify this information with the County Treasurer’s Office.

Below are some important links for anyone looking to apply for NYSDAM PDR funding.


The NYS Department of Agriculture & Markets just announced that for all new PDR awards beginning in 2023, landowners will be required to complete AEM Tier 3 Conservation Plans and submit a certification to that effect as part of the final project file prior to closing the project and receiving the funding from the state. Landowners will have at least two years from the time that they receive an award letter from the state and get under contract to complete this requirement if they do not already have a Tier 3 or higher plan in place. As with Tier 1 and Tier 2 AEM the Tier 3 process can be completed with assistance from the Cayuga County Soil and Water Conservation District. The documents below have been provided by NYSDAM regarding this new requirement. This information IS NOT required as part of the pre-application submitted to Cayuga County, but is required as part of the contract for any farm awarded state funding through the FPIG program going forward. Farms will work with the land trust submitting their state application to make sure the required information is provided back to the state.

Developing Strong Partnerships

Cayuga County's success has been made possible by developing strong partnerships with our farming communities, land trusts such as the New York Agricultural Land Trust and the Finger Lakes 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.

Useful Links

Below are some additional useful links for anyone looking to protect farmland in Cayuga County

Frequently Asked Questions and Map of Protected Land in Cayuga County

Cayuga County Soil and Water Conservation District

Land Trusts

New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets (NYSDAM)

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS)

  1. Cayuga County NY Homepage

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