Agricultural Conservation Easements

What is an agricultural Conservation Easement?

An agricultural conservation easement is an interest in land, less than fee simple, which represents the right to prevent development or improvement of a parcel for any purpose other than agricultural production.

How do conservation easements preserve farmland?

The agricultural conservation easement may be granted by a farmland owner to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a county agricultural land preservation program, a local government unit or a local land trust.  Easements can be sold or donated.  After an easement is sold or donated, the conservation easement restrictions are recorded in the recorder of deeds office in the county where the easement is located.

Why would a landowner want to sell an agricultural conservation easement?

Selling a conservation easement can permanently protect a family's farmland from being lost to future non-agricultural  development.

Landowners can receive cash for some of the equity tied up in their land and still retain ownership of their land.  This money can be used to expand or improve a farm operation, pay off debt, or saved for retirement.

Conservation easements can be used as an estate planning tool to help landowners successfully pass farms on to the next generation.

Commonwealth Eligibility Requirements

The State Agricultural Land Preservation Board has established minimum eligibility requirements for participation in the farmland preservation program.  Farmland tracts must:

  1. Be located in an agricultural security area consisting of 500  acres or more.

  2. Be contiguous acreage of at least 50 acres in size unless the tract is at least 10 acres in size and is either used for a crop unique to the area or is contiguous to a property previously preserved with an agricultural conservation easement.

  3. Have at least 50% of the soils on the property in soil capability classes I-IV (as defined by the local  Soil Survey) and be available for agricultural production.

  4. Contain the greater of 50% or 10 acres of harvested cropland, pasture or grazing land.

County Farmland Preservation Programs

Contact your County Agricultural Land Preservation Board to learn about your local Agricultural Conservation Easement Program and local eligibility requirements.

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