There are 58,000 farms in Pennsylvania covering 7.7 million acres of land and generating four billion dollars in agricultural commodities. Pennsylvania agribusiness industry adds value to those commodities to the tune of 45 billion dollars making agriculture the leading industry in Pennsylvania. Population growth has spurred the demand for agricultural products yet the accompanying residential and commercial development that follows population growth has placed a premium on the one resource needed by both—land.
The Indiana County Farmland Easement Program aims to balance agricultural land uses with developmental needs. By purchasing conservation easements in agricultural zones identified in the County’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan the program preserves the land needed for agriculture without conflicting with the need for development and growth.
In 1987, Pennsylvania voters approved a program to protect our valuable agricultural lands through a statewide Farmland Easement Program. Indiana County chose to work with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) in 1998, to establish a county Farmland Easement Program.
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture grant process is the primary means through which the Pennsylvania Farmland Easement Program and farmers work together to conserve farmland. This grant process will allow the Indiana County Farmland Easement Program to purchase development rights on a working farm from the farmer.
Currently, the sole process in which the Indiana County Program receives funding is from the aforementioned State Program. However, other channels of funding to supplement state funds include: local county funds, private foundations and businesses and the federal government. These various channels of funding will be examined in the future as the Indiana County Program progresses.