State Senator John J. Bonacic (R/I/C - Mt. Hope), today announced that Sullivan County has been awarded an $836,000 grant for farmland preservation. The funding will allow the County to partner with the Delaware Highlands Conservancy to protect a 6th generation, 100-plus year old, 136-acre dairy operation, which is comprised of 80% statewide important soils, that intends to incorporate agri-tourism, milk bottling and cheese making into the operation. The farm has been recognized for it exceptional conservation efforts on the local level.
Sullivan County had been frozen out of the grants in recent years until County officials, specifically Rick Bishop of the County's Planning and Community Development Department, met with Senator Bonacic at Bernie's Lodge in Rock Hill earlier this year, on this matter.
Sullivan had been frozen out because the County was not seen as having enough development pressure, Bishop told Senator Bonacic. Bonacic then called the State Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets to discuss the development pressure Sullivan County was in fact facing.
Funding is typically used to purchase the development rights on the local farm. That means the property can continue to be used for agricultural purposes, but will not be developed for residential or commercial purposes. The program amounts to a "win/win" for both the environment and the farm's owner.
"Family farms are being lost in Sullivan County due to real estate speculation. I am a member of the budget committee which appropriates the funding for farmland protection grants. I explained that Sullivan was going through a rapid phase of land acquisition and that a disproportionate share of family farms were being lost to development," Senator Bonacic said, adding, "I am pleased the Department of Agriculture and Markets was able to closely review Sullivan County's application, and fund it this year."
Sullivan County officials indicate they will use the grant to help preserve the Meyer's Farm near Jeffersonville. Family farm preservation funds have doubled in the State budget during Senator Bonacic's membership on the Agriculture and Environmental Conservation Budget Subcommittees. Family farm preservation funding is a key priority of the NYS Farm Bureau's, which has annually awarded Senator Bonacic its "Circle of Friends" award for supporting local agriculture.