Farmland Preservation 

 

Farmland Research RFP - applications accepted until Monday, August 29, 2022

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Farmland Preservation Overview:

Agriculture is one of Connecticut's most vital economic sectors, and at its heart is the state's extraordinary farmland. The Department of Agriculture preserves working lands by acquiring development rights to agricultural properties through two programs, ensuring that the land remains available only for agricultural use in perpetuity: the Farmland Preservation Program (FPP).

The main objective of the programs is to establish a food-and-fiber producing land resource base, consisting mainly of prime and important farmland soils, that will ensure local availability of fresh farm products and help agriculture to remain an important part of the state’s economy.

A permanent restriction on non-agricultural uses is placed on the deed to these properties, but the farms remain in private ownership and continue to pay local property taxes. The programs are voluntary and give farmers a realistic alternative to selling their land for residential development. 

Applications are evaluated according to state regulation criteria, which recognize the benefits of clustering farms with a high percentage of prime farmland soils in active farm communities. 

As of February 2020, the programs have preserved more than 45,300 acres on 373 farms. The long-term goal is to preserve 130,000 acres.

 

The Program Assists the Public and Agricultural Communities Across the State By: 

  • Preserving the best and most productive agricultural land.
  • Providing an opportunity for farmers to purchase land at affordable prices.
  • Helping farm owners overcome estate planning problems which often result in farmland loss.
  • Providing working capital to enable farm operations to become more financially stable.
  • Addressing other personal ownership problems, such as health and age, which contribute to the likelihood of land being converted to non-agricultural uses.
  • Providing a range of community amenities including its curious blend of serenity and industry.
 

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is a PDR?

PDR stands for Purchase of Development Rights. We use it to refer to current state-preserved farm properties or potential properties to be preserved under the State of Connecticut’s farmland preservation programs. A PDR deed is the resultant easement document granted by land owners to the State of Connecticut and other entities, which describes the location and restrictions of the preserved farmland.

 

Which of the state’s preservation programs should I apply to?

Although applications must be considered on an individual basis, the traditional Farmland Preservation Program (FPP) is typically intended for preserving larger (>30 acres) farms that have a significant quantity of cropland and prime and important soils as defined by the United State Department of Agriculture.

How long does it take to have my farm preserved?

It is the goal of the Department of Agriculture to preserve as many farms as possible in a timely manner. Although it can be difficult to predict the unique situations that can arise in each preservation project, and coordinating stakeholders is time-consuming, 18-24 months should be considered a minimum window of time to complete a preservation effort through our programs. Please keep in mind that some farms take even longer to preserve.

What am I allowed to do on my preserved farm property?

Each PDR deed is unique, but the owner of a preserved farm must not undertake activities that diminish the land and soil for agricultural use.

In general, a PDR owner may:

  • Conduct agricultural activities
  • With approval from the Department of Agriculture, construct buildings such as barns, ponds for irrigation, roadside stands for sale of agricultural products, processing facilities, gravel farm roads, and sometimes residences for persons incidental to the farm.
  • Extract gravel for use on the farm with limitations
  • Perform farmland restoration, usually in accordance with an NRCS-developed Conservation Plan

Please reach out to the Department of Agriculture for questions related to specific restrictions and specific easement deeds. If in doubt, ask!

 

Can I construct on a PDR property?

In general, yes, but all construction or impacts to soil must be approved by the Department of Agriculture following receipt of an Application to Construct, which details the owner’s construction plans. Individual PDR deeds contain limits to impacts on prime soil, arable land, and/or overall acreage. Many PDR properties have designated building envelopes intended to contain structures, although it is often possible to construct outside of envelopes if there is an agricultural need. Approval is necessary for construction within a PDR whether inside or outside of building envelopes. Some PDR deeds do not allow for construction of structures, and most limit the number and size of residence structures. If in doubt, ask!

 

Can I hold events on my preserved PDR farm property?

Commercial, non-agricultural events of any kind are strictly prohibited on PDR properties, however, the Department of Agriculture may approve a very limited number of farm-related events (such as weddings or farm-to-table dinners) on a temporary basis provided such events incorporate the farm and Connecticut agriculture in a prominent way. PDR owners must submit an Application to Construct and obtain approval of such events, subject to the limitations outlined in their respective PDR deed. Seasonal hay rides and educational tours may be allowable, also subject to the limitations outlined in the owner’s PDR deed.

 

Can I still apply for FPP or CFPP if I have a mortgage?

Yes, however before closing of the PDR deed, your lender must subordinate its interest in the property that may interfere with the terms of the PDR easement deed.  Historically, this hasn’t been a significant obstacle for most preserved farm applicants, but we recommend that applicants engage with a real estate attorney and their lender during the preservation process.

 

How will the limits of the PDR easement be determined?

Upon receiving an application, the Department of Agriculture will consider the land offered and confirm eligibility of a preservation configuration that we believe best utilizes the land for agriculture and makes the most sense for current and future farmers. Land owners then have an opportunity to modify a proposed configuration, however, the Department of Agriculture must determine eligibility and viability of changed boundaries.

 

I am considering buying a farm, am I able to find out if it is eligible to be preserved?

The Farmland Preservation Unit is able to process FPP and CFPP applications for serious potential buyers who provide a signed purchase and sale agreement or contract option to buy. We recommend consulting with a real estate attorney regarding contingencies contained in said agreement. Our aim is provide information within three weeks of receiving applications, however, we are unable to guarantee a property will be preserved in our program.

 

I am considering buying a preserved farm, am I able to find out if my potential construction would be approved?

The Farmland Preservation Unit is able to process Applications to Construct for serious potential buyers of PDR properties who provide a signed purchase and sale agreement or contract option to buy. We recommend consulting with a real estate attorney regarding contingencies contained in said agreement. Our aim is provide information within three weeks of receiving applications.

 

What is the difference between Farmland Preservation and Farmland Restoration?

Farmland Preservation, through the state's FPP and CFPP programs, involves preserving properties in perpetuity for agricultural use. The Farmland Restoration Program is a grant program to match funding of efforts to restore or improve agricultural land, but that land does not need to be preserved in the state's Farmland Preservation Programs to qualify.

 


Applications:

Farmland Preservation Program (FPP): Farmland Preservation Program Application  

Additional Resources:

Also available: Conservation Options for Connecticut Farmland  - .pdf, 21 pgs.

Do's and Don'ts on a PDR property - .pdf, 2 pgs.

What is an NRCS conservation plan? - .pdf, 2 pgs.

 

For more information contact:

Farmland Preservation Program

Connecticut Dept. of Agriculture

450 Columbus Boulevard, Suite 703

Hartford CT 06103

Phone:  860.713.2511

Email: DoAg.Farmland@ct.gov