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Record Farmland Conservation Funding

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The proposed FY 2007-08 executive budget, released on January 31, increases the overall Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) budget from $225 to $250 million. Below are the allocations for farmland conservation programs:

2005-06

2006-07

Proposed
2007-08

Percent Increase

Farmland Protection Program

$16 million

$23 million

$28 million       

22%


Agricultural Non-Point Water Pollution Projects


$11.7 million
(split with municipal nonpoint projects)


$11.003 million


$12.833 million


17%

Soil and Water Conservation Districts

$1.86 million

$3 million

$3 million

---


Land Trust Conservation Partnership Program


$500,000


$500,000


$1 million


50%

The proposed EPF budget also includes $2 million in funding for a new smart growth program. Increases to the EPF depend on an expansion of the “bottle bill.” The expanded bottle bill would apply nickel deposits to non-carbonated beverages such as water and juice and allocate unclaimed nickel deposits to the EPF. Currently, unclaimed nickel deposits are kept by beverage distributors. The Department of Budget has determined that the unclaimed bottle deposits will allow the 2008-09 EPF to increase by another $75 million, for a total appropriation of $300 million.

The budget proposal is consistent with the actions called for within AFT’s recently released report, Picking Up the Pace: A Road Map for Accelerating Farmland Conservation in New York. The report found that the state loses about 10 times more farmland to development than it protects annually. Each year, 26,000 acres of farmland are developed in New York while the state’s Farmland Protection Program has protected only 2,192 acres annually. 

The AFT report also found that New York has the second lowest percentage of protected farmland in the Northeast: 0.2 percent or 17,532 of the state’s 7.6 million acres of land in farms. By comparison, Pennsylvania has protected 4.1 percent of its farmland (318,350 acres); Vermont has conserved 8.9 percent of its farmland (113,000 acres) and New Jersey has protected 17.8 percent of its farmland (140,553 acres).

The Picking Up the Pace report recommends 17 actions for consideration by the new Spitzer administration and state legislature that would double the rate of farmland protected annually. These actions include increasing state funding and expanding financial incentives for farmland protection; significantly reducing the time needed to complete state Farmland Protection Program projects; and creating a strategic long-term plan for farmland protection in New York.

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American Farmland Trust