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Farmland Preservation

Farmland Preservation Program Farm Plowed Field

The Pennsylvania Agricultural Conservation Easement Program was developed in 1988 to strengthen Pennsylvania's agricultural economy and protect prime farmland.  Washington County passed a resolution in 1994 establishing the County Agricultural Land Preservation Board for purchasing agricultural conservation easement from landowners.  The program is designed to protect viable agricultural lands by acquiring agricultural conservation easements which prevent the development or improvement of the land for any purpose other than agricultural production.  Pennsylvania leads the nation in the number of farms and acres preserved.  According to the American Farmland Trust, Pennsylvania is losing more than 40 acres of farmland daily.  As of April 2016, there were 4,951 farms totaling 520,619 acres in Pennsylvania with an agricultural conservation easement in place including Washington County's contribution of 34 farms totaling 5,394 acres.

In Washington County, application are accepted on a yearly basis and landowners must meet the following requirements to apply to the farmland preservation program:

  • A minimum of 50 acres; or at least 10 acres and utilized for a crop unique to the area; or 10 acres and adjacent to an already preserved farm
  • Enrolled in an Agricultural Security Area consisting of 500 acres or more
  • Contain at least 50% of soils which are available for agricultural production and are of Land Capability Classes I-IV, as defined by the Soil Survey published by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.
  • Contain the greater of 50% or (ten) acres of harvested cropland, pasture or grazing lands.
  • Landowners must exhibit good land stewardship including but not limited to the use of conservation and best land management practices such as soil, sedimentation control and nutrient management.

Agricultural Security Areas
Agricultural Security Areas (ASA) were designed to strengthen and protect agriculture in Pennsylvania.  Twenty-seven municipalities in Washington County participate in the Agricultural Security Areas program which entitles farmers to special consideration from local and state government agencies, and encourages continuous use of the land for productive agricultural purposes.  For more information, please visit the PA Department of Agriculture Agricultural Security Area web page.

Farmland Preservation Board
    Ms. Heike Mills, Chair 
    Mr. Alvin Carter, Vice Chair 
    Mr. Thomas Casciola      
    Mr. William Iams
    Mr. William Paxton, Treasurer
    Mr. Bob O'Brien 
    Mr. Earl Sadler

Farmland Preservation Easement Summary

Township Number of Farms Acres Preserved
Amwell 3 508.602
Chartiers 1 136.368
Cross Creek 3 529.2577
Cross Creek/Jefferson 1 96.23
Deemston 1 170.426
Hanover 1 191.78
Hopewell 12 1925.058
Hopewell/Mount Pleasant 2 344.94
Independence 4 550.9646
Mount Pleasant 1 207.21
North Bethlehem 1 274.328
Somerset 1 47.177
West Bethlehem 2 262.12
West Pike Run 1 146.827

Available Materials 
Farmland Preservation Policies and Bylaws
Farmland Preservation Policies and Bylaws Appendix H - Priority Agricultural Area Map
Farmland Preservation Appendix A - Landowner Application

Program News and Notes
          -  Applications for the 2016 Farmland Preservation Program may be submitted    
             through September 30, 2016.  Please see the Planning Commission Tab for 
             information on the Annual Public Information Meeting.

          -  The Income Requirement of the Farmland Preservation Application has been   
                -  Landowners applying to the program are no longer required to provide proof 
                   of income from farm operations. 

          -  The Bylaws were amended in June 2014, updating Section V to reflect the ASA  
              Law's definition of "Contiguous Acreage" which includes land separated by 
              railroads.  In addition, added to the county bylaws was a "Subdivision/Land 
              Development Form" applicable to those with preserved farms who meet the 
              requirements and find it necessary to subdivide in the future.

Caroline Sinchar
Planning Administrator

Washington County Planning Commission
100 W. Beau St.
Suite 701
Washington, PA 15301

Ph: (724) 228-6811