Suffolk County to dedicate $100 million over the next 10 years to preserve at-risk farms.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has announced the 100 for 10 Farmland Preservation Initiative that will invest $100 million over the next 10 years to preserve the remaining at-risk farms across the county and encourage inter-municipal cooperation. The new funding program, which was included in the County Executive’s proposed Capital Budget unveiled on Friday, will bolster the County’s nationally recognized farmland preservation efforts and motivate surrounding municipalities to join the push to conserve all remaining unpreserved farmland.
“One of the many things that makes Suffolk County incredible is our unparalleled farmland, and Suffolk was a pioneer when it came to preserving farmland,” said Suffolk County Executive Bellone. “Despite the ongoing pandemic, we moved full steam ahead with our first in the nation farmland preservation program and today we are committed to preserve the remaining 10,000 acres to ensure farming is forever cemented as part of the fabric of Suffolk County.”
Agriculture is an essential element of Suffolk County living and Long Island economic development. With $226 million in sales, Suffolk County is the 4th highest ranking County in the state of New York in terms of the total market value for agricultural goods produced. Suffolk is home to 560 farms that employ more than 4,600 people. These farms grow and provide locally sourced food to area businesses and restaurants and serve as the foundation of Suffolk’s rural character and tourism economy.
Fifty years ago, the Nassau-Suffolk Comprehensive Plan Summary in 1970 recommended the preservation of 30,000 acres of farmland in order to sustain the long-term viability of Long Island farming. Shortly thereafter, in 1974, Suffolk County created the first in the nation Farmland Development Rights program. Since the creation of the program, Suffolk County has preserved over 11,000 acres. Additionally, other local municipalities and land trusts have preserved 9,000 acres, bringing the countywide total to 20,000 acres.
Through the new 100 for 10 Farmland Preservation program, Suffolk County will work with its municipal partners to preserve the remaining 10,000 acres and finally reach the goal of 30,000 acres to permanently protect the economic viability of agriculture. Suffolk County has already preserved 143.5 acres of farmland in 2021. This much needed capital funding from the 100 for 10 Farmland Preservation program will help preserve these important farms and encourage additional farmers to join the farmland preservation program.
Farmland preservation expenditures are investments in Suffolk County’s long-term future. It enhances the economic viability of the farming operation and keeps them in permanent production. These farms continue serving as the power-horses of Suffolk County’s economy, while preserving the County’s natural resources and remaining on the tax rolls.
The new capital funding is intended to motivate and inspire County-wide action. Suffolk County will be working with all ten towns, private land trusts, and New York State to ensure the County is able to meet the preservation goals. As part of the effort, the County is reaching out to the five East End supervisors who have access to Community Preservation Fund (CPF) funding and to New York State to convene a meeting about how the County can effectively partner to meet this critical goal for our region. At this time, the County also invites farmers to sign up for the program today. More information, including an application, can be found here.