Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Ag Land Preservation

Ag Land Preservation


Pennsylvania leads the nation in the number of farms and acres permanently preserved for agricultural production.  This program enables state and county governments to purchase conservation easements from farmers guaranteeing a future food supply and contributes to a healthier economy. In October of 1990, the Lycoming County Commissioners appointed a seven-member Board to develop a farmland preservation plan.  After almost a year of work, this plan was submitted to the State Agricultural Land Preservation Board for approval.

The current board members are: Paul Wentzler, Chairman; John Schon, Vice Chairman; Larry Fry; Donald Hepburn; Joseph Neyhart; Michael Sherman and Marilyn Ely. Mark Davidson serves as the Administrator of this program. Lycoming County farmers have made a significant contribution to this important statewide effort.  Currently there are 74 easements preserving over 9,000 acres of County farmland for future generations.


It is the purpose of this program to protect viable agricultural land by acquiring conservation easements in perpetuity to prevent the development of the land for any purpose other than agricultural production.

Further, it is the purpose of this program to:

  • Encourage landowners to make a long-term commitment to agriculture by offering them financial incentives and security of land use.
  • Protect normal farming operations in agricultural security areas from incompatible non-farmland uses that may render farming impracticable.
  • Protect normal farming operations from complaints of public nuisance against normal farming operations.
  • Assure conservation of viable agricultural lands in order to protect the agricultural economy of this Commonwealth.
  • Provide compensation to landowners in exchange for their relinquishment of the right to develop their private property.
  • Maximize agricultural conservation easement purchase funds and protect the investment of taxpayers in agricultural conservation easements.


The State Agricultural Land Preservation Board has established requirements that farms must meet to be eligible for the easement purchase program.

Farms must be:

  • Located in an Agricultural Security Area consisting of at least 500 acres.
  • At least 50% of the farm soils must be in soil capability Class I-IV.
  • The farm must contain at least 50% harvested cropland, pasture or grazing land.
  • The farm must contain at least 50 acres or at least ten acres if contiguous to an existing eased farm.
  • In addition, the state board requires that consideration be given to the likelihood that the tract will be converted to a non-agricultural use.
  • The applicant’s stewardship of the land is also a factor.

The Lycoming County Board has added two additional requirements for participation in the program - all applicants must submit the entire parcel as described by the Deed.  There can be no sub-division to the property after the easement is purchased. There will be an annual sign-up period, typically, the month of October.  This will be the only time applications will be accepted.  Applicants must submit a check for $50.00 along with their application.


Applications received by the County Board will be ranked using a two-part evaluation and site assessment system.  The land evaluation looks at the quality of soils and the site assessment considers location factors that may have an impact on current or future viability of a farm.  The soils evaluation is based on soils data obtained from the Lycoming County Soil Survey published by the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service.  The site assessment portion consists of 14 factors that the members of the Lycoming County Board believe relate to the viability of the site for present and future agricultural use.

These factors consider development pressures in the area and the likelihood of future development’s impact on farm operations.  Each application will be researched for each of the 14 site assessment factors.  All 14 factors have been assigned points based on the factor’s overall importance in the site assessment system.

Each farm will receive a numerical ranking.  Those farms with the highest ranking will be chosen first to be appraised.  The applicant must help defray part of the cost of the appraisal.  As of 1/1/1998, the applicant’s portion is $750.00, which is subject to change.

Based on the appraisal, the Board will make the landowner an offer for their development rights.  If both parties (the Board and the landowner) agree on the figure, the easement will be purchased using local and state dollars.  The landowner will receive the money agreed to in the contract.  They will still own the land, but because they no longer own the development rights, agriculture production will be the only future use of the land.  A soil conservation plan must be followed when farming the property.


Anyone desiring additional information or an application should contact the Lycoming County Conservation District at (570) 433-3003.  The office is located at 542 County Farm Road, Suite 202, Montoursville, PA 17754.

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