The Wolf Administration announced Thursday that Pennsylvania’s nation-leading farmland preservation program has reached more than 600,000 acres of farmland preserved, leaving it forever safeguarded from future residential, commercial, or industrial development.
The 600,000-acre milestone was celebrated at the Martin Farm in Berks County, where Secretary Russell Redding was joined by Senator Judy Schwank, Senate & Rural Affairs chair and industry leaders.
Pennsylvania safeguarded an additional 2,515 acres on 29 farms in 14 counties, investing more than $7.5 million in the future of agriculture. Pennsylvania’s nation-leading farmland preservation program preserves farms from development, and it makes targeted investments in the future of farming and food security for Pennsylvania.
“In just 34 years, Pennsylvania has preserved more than 600,000 acres of the most productive, non-irrigated farmland in the United States,” said Redding. “As climate change and our growing population place increased demand on land use, this program becomes even more critical to the resilience of agriculture. The acreage preserved over the past 34 years, and what we look forward to preserving tomorrow, is an investment in the future needs of Pennsylvania, the nation and the world.”
The 29 farms preserved today are in Berks, Butler, Centre, Chester, Cumberland, Dauphin, Erie, Lancaster, Lehigh, Mercer, Montgomery, Northampton, Schuylkill and York counties.
These farms include a vineyard as well as multiple crop and livestock operations. “Not every state is fortunate enough to have an agriculture industry like we have in Pennsylvania,” said Senator Schwank.
“It’s a major economic driver and serves as the green infrastructure that sustains the Commonwealth environmentally. Preserving farmland ensures we can grow our own crops and rely less on imports and products. Buying locally grown food keeps money in local economies, creates jobs and provides economic stability to farmers. The continued growth of the Farmland Preservation program is very encouraging, and I believe will help Pennsylvania maintain its robust agriculture industry well into the future.”
Since the program began in 1988, federal, state, county, and local governments have purchased permanent easements on 5,928 Pennsylvania farms totaling 601,647 acres.
Farms preserved and total investment in Berks County include $375,651 state, $207,200 county.
The Benjamin & Karah Davies farm, a 20-acre livestock operation The Kenneth & Elizabeth Ehst farm, a 27-acre crop farm. The Curtis & Dorothy Huber farm, a 20-acre crop farm. The Dennis & Donna Kunkle farm, a 61-acre crop and livestock operation. The Jeremy & Cindy Martin farm, a 50-acre crop and livestock operation. The Warren & Bonnie Wessner farm, a 76-acre crop farm.
Since taking office in 2015, Governor Tom Wolf has made farmland preservation a priority investment dedicating more than $253 million in the state’s program, an increase of 132 percent over the previous administration’s investment in the program. Combined with investments from county farmland preservation programs, Governor Wolf’s $253 million investment has preserved nearly 100,000 acres since 2015.
“Pennsylvania’s farmland preservation program is of utmost importance – agricultural development and farmland preservation are inextricably tied to food security and nutrition and the population of Pennsylvania and the world are only increasing,” said Governor Wolf.
“My investments in preserving Pennsylvania farmland for perpetuity are critical to increasing the quantity and diversity of food, driving economic transformation, and ensuring that land is always available for Pennsylvania’s $132.5 billion agricultureindustry.”
In 2019, an agriculture research study funded by the department and conducted through the University of Pennsylvania, found the total economic impact of farmland preservation in Pennsylvania to be valued from $1.8 to $2.9 billion annually. The report also estimated environmental benefits of farmland preservation to be an additional $1.9 billion annually.