Academic journal article Albany Law Review

Urban Creep in Upstate New York: Optimizing the Preservation of Agricultural Land

Academic journal article Albany Law Review

Urban Creep in Upstate New York: Optimizing the Preservation of Agricultural Land

Article excerpt

New York State is home to the largest city in the United States and one of the most famous cities in the world: New York City. (1) However, Upstate New York is also home to a diversity of agriculture all across the state from dairy farms, apple orchards, and strawberry fields, to maple syrup, wineries, and cut Christmas trees. (2) A drive across the state in late summer or early fall showcases all that Upstate New York has to offer from the beautiful scenery to the acres upon acres of crops that blanket the landscape with a multitude of colors and envelops visitors in a feeling of home.

In New York and across the United States, there is a deep heritage and tradition of agriculture and it needs to be preserved and protected for future generations. Additionally, the United States is the world's top exporter of food and agricultural products with expectations for the future projected to continue in order to feed the rapidly increasing world population. (3) Upstate New York is home to many farming families and agriculturalists, providing food for those in their local communities across the state, and even across the co .ntry. (4) While farmers take pride in their crops and animals, they are faced with the economic uncertainty of securing the future of the land that they put their blood, sweat, and tears into for future generations.

In the last fifty years, the population growth across the country has created a migration of people from the cities and suburbs to the surrounding urban and rural areas. (5) This move has impacted farming practices because land is a precious commodity and once farmland is redeveloped for housing purposes, that land is lost forever. (6) Unlike European cities that have walls that act as physical barriers indicating where the urban areas end, the United States faces the epidemic of a centerless sprawl because there is no designation on where the urban areas end and people from the urban areas keep expanding farther away from the epicenter of the cities and are encroaching into the countryside. (7)

While there are no walled cities to assist in protecting against a centerless sprawl, farmers have several options to preserve their lands and the agricultural heritage and tradition in America. There are federal programs such as the Farmland Protection Program that conveys a conservation easement as a voluntary restriction on a farmer's land and the Natural Conservation Service that provides financial assistance to farmers that want a conservation easement to limit nonagricultural uses of the land. (8) Additionally, at the state level, New York has a conservation easement program, the Environmental Conservation Law, and a protection plan under the Department of Agriculture and Markets to provide financial and technical support in preserving agricultural land in New York. (9) Furthermore, non-profit organizations, such as the Agricultural Stewardship Association (ASA), may assist in providing a portion of the finances required for a conservation easement. (10) At the local level, zoning can be used to fit the goals and objectives of the local community and this personal relationship with the local ecosystem is vital to preserving farmland because farms tend to be the buffer against urban sprawl and therefore, communities must work together. (11) However, increasing demand for land can put a strain on a community and there must be a discussion between farmers and members of the community in order to find a solution to a difficult problem. (12)

In New York State, the Agricultural Mediation Program provides the tools necessary to facilitate a conversation between farmers and community members to address issues regarding farming practices and to find a solution that works for all participants. (13) A neutral third-party would be able to provide services for a community facing a zoning issue and, in the process, the participants are able to listen and learn from one another. …

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