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Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Program

Preserving Dauphin County's Farmland for
the Future

PROGRAM DESCRIPTION

The Dauphin County Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Program preserves farmland for the future by purchasing agricultural conservation easements. The easements prevent the land from being used for any purpose other than agricultural production.  The landowners still own the land and can sell the land or pass it on to heirs.  However, the restrictions of the Deed of Easement stay with the land and apply to any subsequent owner.  The easement is purchased in perpetuity meaning that the restrictions on the land are forever.

Landowners may build agricultural buildings such as barns, poultry houses or milking facilities.  The easement also allows for the construction of one additional residence on the restricted land.  There are also restrictions on subdivision of land subject to these easements as well as part time or off season businesses.

The program is part of the state wide Farmland Preservation Program.  As such, the program procedures must adhere to the state wide regulations.  In general, these regulations provide guidance on:

  •  Eligibility and application procedures

  •  Scoring, ranking and selection of applications for easement purchase

  •  Easement purchase procedures

  •  Easement inspection requirements

  •  Subdivision, rural enterprises and sales of farms

In Dauphin County, as well as all other participating counties, the program is overseen by a County Agricultural Land Preservation Board.  The board members are appointed by the County Commissioners and serve three year terms.

PROGRAM FUNDING

Funding for the program in Dauphin County has come from three sources.

  1. County Funding – Under the program counties may allocate funding for the easement purchase
    program.  Also, by law all Clean and Green roll back tax interest must be designated for use by the county program.  County allocations and the roll back tax interest receive matches from state funds.
  2. State Funding – Annually, the state allocates money to participating counties by two methods:
  1. Grants are allocated to all participating counties.

  2. Matching funds are allocated to all counties that provide funds for easement purchases. Both county allocated funds and rollback tax interest are matched.

  1. Federal Funds – Federal funding is available through the Federal Farm and Ranchlands Protection Program (FRPP).  These funds must be applied for and are not guaranteed.

GENERAL PROGRAM PROCEDURES

By regulation, county programs must accept, score and rank all eligible applications.  The state regulations provide minimum criteria for eligibility which counties may supplement with acceptable additional criteria.

In Dauphin County a farm is eligible to apply if:

  • The farm is at least 50 contiguous acres.  If the land adjoins another farm that is subject to an agricultural conservation easement, the farm must be at least 10 acres.

  •  At least 50% of the farm must be in crop or pasture.

  • At least 50% of the farm must be in Class I through IV soils.

  • The farm must be enrolled in an Agricultural security Area of at least 500 acres.

  • The farm must have a conservation plan.

Also by regulation, applicants must be offered the opportunity to enter the program in the order that their application is ranked for any given year.

Applications are due the third Tuesday of January each year for consideration for that year.  There is a 25 dollar application fee for each application.  Applicants that are not selected in a given year are automatically considered in following years.  There is no need to submit an application each year.

For applicants that are selected and choose to enter the program, the process of easement purchase starts with an appraisal to determine the easement value.  Based on the appraisal, the applicant is made a written offer for the purchase of the easement.  If the offer is accepted, the farm is surveyed and an Agreement of Sale is signed.

An application for the easement purchase is then submitted to the State Agricultural Land Preservation Board for approval.  After the State Board approves the purchase, the checks for the easement purchase are received by the Conservation District and a date for settlement is scheduled.

At settlement, the landowner receives the check and signs the Deed of Easement.  Once the Deed is recorded at the Count Recorder of Deeds office, the process is complete and the farm is permanently preserved as farmland.

The above description is a simplified version of the actual process.  It is recommended that interested landowners arrange a time to meet with District staff to go over the program in more detail.

For more information, click on the links below to read information or see documents on that topic.

SUMMARY OF EASEMENT PURCHASES IN DAUPHIN COUNTY

MAP OF EASEMENTS IN DAUPHIN COUNTY

FACT SHEET

EASEMENT PURCHASE PROCEDURE SUMMARY

APPRAISAL AGREEMENT

SURVEY AGREEMENT

BLANK DEED OF EASEMENT

BLANK SALES AGREEMENT

SELLING EASED FARMS

SUBDIVISION AND CONSTRUCTION OF AN ADDITIONAL RESIDENCE

RURAL AND PART TIME ENTERPRISES

APPLICATION

APPLICATION INSTRUCTIONS

LANDOWNER RESPONSIBILITIES DOCUMENT

AGRICULTURE SECURITY AREAS

Contact The Dauphin County Conservation District…

Dauphin County Conservation District
1451 Peters Mountain Road
Dauphin  PA  17018
717-921-8100

1451 Peters Mountain Road Dauphin PA 17018 phone: 717-921-8100