The Agricultural Security Area program began in 1981 as a tool for strengthening and protecting agriculture in Pennsylvania. Farm landowners, working together, initiate the process of establishing such Areas in which agriculture is the primary activity.
Participating farmers will receive three main benefits for participating in the Agricultural Security Area Program. First, the township supervisors agree to support agriculture by not passing nuisance laws that would restrict normal farming operations. Secondly, limitations will be placed on the ability of the state and local government to condemn farmland in an agricultural security area for highways, parks, schools, or municipal projects. And lastly, landowners will be eligible to voluntarily apply for the Farmland Preservation Program that will allow them to sell an agricultural conservation easement (development rights) in exchange for monetary compensation. However, the Farmland Preservation Program requires that a landowner may only sell their agricultural conservation easement if located in an agricultural security area of 500 acres or more.
There is a procedure for the establishment of an agricultural security area. Typically, a group of farm owners get together and initiate the process of establishing an agricultural security area in their township. The landowners will submit a petition to create an agricultural security area to the township supervisors. The petition must include the signatures and address of the landowners, tax parcel numbers, and the number of acres of each farm tract. If the petition is approved, participating landowners agree to keep their land in agriculture in return for certain benefits that the township will give. The term of an agricultural security area is seven years followed by a re-certification process. Participation in an agricultural security area is purely voluntary. There are no penalties for an individual that changes land use while in an agricultural security area. The addition of land to an existing agricultural security area many occur at any time.
Agricultural security areas are intended to promote more permanent and viable farming operations over the long term by strengthening the farming community’s sense of security in land use and the right to farm. Agricultural security areas are created by local municipalities in cooperation with individual landowners who agree to collectively place at least 250 acres in an agricultural security area.
Who Should Participate
Landowners with the following eligible property:
1. Noncontiguous farm parcels must be at least 10 acres in size. The farm tracts needed to create a new 250 acre or larger agricultural security area do not have to be under the same ownership or even be located in the same municipality. The Agricultural Area Security Law (Act 43 of 1981) allows for the creation of joint municipality agricultural security areas.
2. The property should be viable agricultural land. Cropland, pasture, and woodland can all be included in an agricultural security area.
3. At least 50% of the land should be in Soil Capability Classes I-IV, as defined by the county soil survey.
4. The property must be zoned to permit agricultural uses.
The process of establishing an Agricultural Security Area is initiated by petition of owner’s productive farmland totaling at least 250 acres. The land to be included must have soils conducive to agriculture and be used for production of crops, livestock, livestock products, horticultural specialties and timber.
There are 19 townships in Armstrong County that have agricultural security areas. They include Bethel, Boggs, Burrell, East Franklin, Gilpin, Kiskiminetas, Kittanning, Mahoning, Manor, North Buffalo, Parks, Plumcreek, Redbank, South Bend, South Buffalo, Valley, Sugarcreek, Wayne, and West Franklin Township.
For more information on the Agricultural Security Area Program or to obtain a registration form, please contact Jessica Schaub at the Armstrong Conservation District at 724-545-3628 or check the Bureau of Farmland Preservation website.