The Monroe County Agricultural Land Preservation Program is intended to protect and promote continued productive agricultural use on viable agricultural lands through the acquisition of agricultural conservation easements. An agricultural conservation easement is a legally binding contract that runs with the land. It sets forth restrictions on the property to maintain the integrity of the land for farming. The value of the conservation easement is the difference between the fair market value and the agricultural value of the farmland. In other words, it is the difference in value of the farmland before the easement is in place and the value of the farmland after the easement is in place. This Program is available to farmland owners, located in agricultural security areas, who wish to sell agricultural conservation easements to Monroe County and/or the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Since its inception in 1990, the Monroe County Agricultural Land Preservation Board has purchased 120 conservation easements totaling 8,100 acres. Funding for the Monroe County Agricultural Land Preservation Program is provided by both the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Monroe County. Some Things To Think About Regarding The Preservation Of Your Farm 1. Perpetuity - Once an easement has been placed on a tract of land, the guidelines in the deed remain permanent to the land. If you sell the farm, the new owner must also continue to farm and follow the provisions of the deed of easement. 2. Conservation Plan - Prior to closing, someone from the Conservation District will assist you in developing a Conservation Plan if you do not already have one in place. The plan will be catered to your farming practices and your situation. The purpose of the preservation program is not only to preserve the farm, but to preserve the soils that keep the farm productive. 3. One Additional Residential Structure - Once the easement is in place, one additional residential structure may be constructed on the land under easement. This structure must be used as either the landowner’s principal residence or for seasonal or fulltime farm employees. When completing your application for preservation, you should think ahead in terms of children, parents, and tenant farmers who may need housing. 4. Subdivision - Subdivision of the eased land is prohibited if the construction of the additional residential structure can be completed by land development other than subdivision. If subdivision is necessary in order to build this structure, the Agricultural Land Preservation Board has the discretion to accept or deny the subdivision. 5. Enforcement - The Agricultural Land Preservation Board is responsible for enforcing the restrictions stated in the easement. To do this, the Board inspects the property once per year and maintains written records of these monitoring visits. If a monitoring visit reveals an easement violation, the Board has the legal right to require the landowner to correct the violation and restore the property to its condition prior to the violation. Minimum Criteria for Program Eligibility Property that is eligible to be preserved through this program must: 1) Be located in an Agricultural Security Area* consisting of 500 acres or more. 2) Be "contiguous acreage" of at least 35 acres (State funded easement) or 20 acres (County funded easement) in size unless the tract is at least 10 acres in size and is either utilized for a "crop unique to the area" or is contiguous to a property which has a perpetual conservation easement in place which is held by a "qualified conservation organization," as that term is defined at Section 170(h)(3)of the Internal Revenue Code. 3) Contain at least 50% of soils which are available for agricultural production and are in capability class I through IV, as defined by the USDA-Natural Resource Conservation Service. 4) Contain the greater of 50% or 10 acres of harvested cropland, pasture or grazing land.
*NOTE: An Agricultural Security Area (ASA) is administered at the township level. It is not a land use law and does not prohibit what local zoning permits. It provides protection from nuisance ordinances, eminent domain, and condemnation. If you are not already a part of an ASA, you can join an existing ASA; or, if your Township does not have an ASA, you may be able to form one.
If you are interested in this program and would like more information, contact the Monroe County Conservation District at 579-629-3060, or call Monroe County Planning Commission, at 570-517-3100 or visit the Monroe County Planning Commission website at http://www.co.monroe.pa.us