Farmland Preservation Program

Pennsylvania's state-level Easement Purchase Program has protected more farmland than any other state-level Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easement (PACE) program in the country.

Easement Purchase Program
The Pennsylvania Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Program was developed in 1988 to help slow the loss of prime farmland to non-agricultural uses. The program enables state, county and local governments to purchase conservation easements (sometimes called development rights) from owners of quality farmland. The first easements were purchased in 1989. Counties participating in the program have appointed agricultural land preservation boards with a state board created to oversee this program. The state board is responsible for distribution of state funds, approval and monitoring of county programs and specific easement purchases.

Agricultural Security Areas (ASAs) are a tool for strengthening and protecting our quality farmland from the urbanization of rural areas. Key features of the program are Voluntary for farmers. Petitions are submitted to township supervisors by the farmers to create the ASA. They are reviewed every seven years; however, new parcels of farmland may be added to an established ASA at any time.

A minimum of 250 acres from among all the participating farmers is required. An ASA may include non-adjacent farmland parcels of at least ten acres or be able to produce $2000 annually from the sale of agricultural products. Participants receive special consideration regarding:

  • Local ordinances affecting farming activities.
  • Nuisance complaints.
  • And review of farmland condemnation by state and local government agencies.

An ASA qualifies land for consideration under the Easement Purchase Program at the landowner's request, if the ASA has at least 500 acres enrolled

How Farms Are Chosen For Easement Purchase
Aside from being part of an ASA, the farm is rated against other eligible parcels according to the following criteria:

  • Quality of the Farmland. State regulations require that easements be purchased on farms of a minimum of 50 acres in size or at least 35 acres if a county adopts to allow farms of that size into their program. Parcels as small as 10 acres may be preserved if adjacent to existing preserved farmland or used for the production of crops unique to the area. At least half the tract must either be harvested cropland, pasture or grazing land and it must contain 50 percent soil capability classes I-IV.
  • Stewardship. Farms are rated on the use of conservation practices and best management practices of nutrient management and control of soil erosion and sedimentation.
  • Likelihood of Conversion. Easements offered for sale to counties will be scored and ranked for acquisition based on a variety of factors such as:
    • Proximity of farm to sewer and water lines.
    • Extent and type of non -agricultural uses nearby.
    • Amount and type of agricultural use in the vicinity.
    • The amount of other preserved farmland in close proximity.

Proceeds From Easement Sale
Farmers may choose to receive the proceeds from easement sales in a lump sum payment, installments up to five years, or on a long-term installment basis. Many farmers use the proceeds from easement sales to reduce debt loads, expand operations, and as a way to pass on farms to the next generation.

Find your local contact:
Farmland Preservation County Administrators (PDF)

Contact Farmland Preservation Program

2301 N Cameron St
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania  17110
Phone: 717-783-3167


Service Area

Statewide Program in:
  • Pennsylvania

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