County expected to add farmland into program

HOLLIDAYSBURG – Blair County is preparing to add 276 acres to its farmland preservation program, partly due to an increase in county and state funds.

Commissioners, who heard the request Tuesday, indicated they will be voting in favor of purchasing easements affecting 147.4 acres at the John W. and Sandra G. Burket farm and 128.62 acres at the Eric D. and Kristen L. Hoover farm, both in the Sinking Valley area of Tyrone Township.

These will be the 45th and 46th easements in Blair County’s program, initiated in 1991, that now preserves about 6,400 acres of farmland. Of the 6,400, about 1,700 are in Tyrone Township, a number that will increase with the addition of the Burket and Hoover farms.

“We’re getting a pretty good block of preserved farms in that area,” Rich Huether, agricultural conservation specialist for the Blair County Conservation District, told commissioners.

Commissioners Chairman Terry Tomassetti recalled earlier action to increase funding for the program from $40,000 to $80,000 annually.

That increase, Huether said, is allowing the consideration of two farms this year, and it helped Blair County leverage $350,910 in farmland preservation money available from the state.

For the Burket farm, the easement will be purchased for $212,256, which includes $172,256 in state funds and $40,000 in county funds. For the Hoover farm, the easement will be purchased for $218,654, which includes $178,654 in state funds and $40,000 in county funds.

Pennsylvania has been the nation’s leader in farmland preservation efforts designed to keep prime agricultural land available for agricultural use. Fifty-seven of the state’s 67 counties participate in the state’s Conservation Easement Purchase Program developed in 1988 to help slow the loss of prime farmland to non-agricultural use.

Owners of prime agricultural farmland interested in preserving their land are encouraged to apply for future funding, Huether said. The deadline for the 2015 program is Oct. 15, and those interested should contact the conservation district by calling 696-0877, ext. 5.

To be eligible for consideration, the tract of land must be recorded as part of an agricultural security area within the municipality where it is located. Blair County has agricultural security areas

in Antis, Catherine, Frankstown, Greenfield, Huston, North Woodbury, Snyder, Taylor, Tyrone and Woodbury townships.

Eligible tracts also must be at least 50 acres, with at least 50 percent of the land in harvested cropland or pasture. In addition, at least 50 percent of the soils must have a I through IV classification, indicating that it is highly suitable for longterm crop production.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.