TRENTON, N.Y. — The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets announced on Feb. 8 that it has awarded more than $1.7 million in support of a conservation-easement project at a dairy farm in Oneida County.
Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust, an environmental nonprofit based in Watertown, was awarded $1,707,834 for the conservation of Terrance Jones Dairy Farm, located in the Town of Trenton, about 10 miles north of Utica. This is the “first-ever” farmland protection grant award made to an Oneida County farm, the Department of Agriculture and Markets said in a news release. Permanently protecting 740 acres, the grant will help Terrance Jones Dairy Farm undertake a transition to a more diversified farm operation while still operating, partly, as a dairy, the department added.
The farm suffered a major fire in early January, destroying its barn and killing 200 cows, according to local media reports. The farm’s owner had applied for the farmland protection grant last summer and coincidentally found out about the grant award shortly after the fire.
As a condition of the grant, even if the farm is sold, it must remain in agricultural use forever.
The Department of Agriculture and Markets says dairy farmers face challenges from prolonged low milk prices, increasing the threat of conversion of viable agricultural land to non-farm development. The state’s Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program seeks to help give dairy farms the “opportunity to diversify their operations or transition their farms to the next generation at more affordable costs, while ensuring the land forever remains used for agricultural purposes,” the release stated.
A farm in Schuyler County was also awarded more than $1.1 million to transition to a more diversified farm operation. The state funding builds on the nearly $8.5 million awarded in December 2018 to permanently protect five dairy farms in the Finger Lakes, Mid-Hudson Valley and Central New York regions, per the release.
More than $12 million in funding for the program is still available and the Department of Agriculture and Markets said it is encouraging its partners across the state to apply.
The state continues to accept applications on a rolling basis for farmland protection grants of up to $2 million from eligible entities, such as land trusts, municipalities, counties, and soil and water conservation districts. There is no application deadline. More information is available at: https://www.agriculture.ny.gov/RFPS.html.