This year marks the 20th anniversary of the program which supports conservation easement projects.
The Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program is part of the New York state Environmental Protection Fund, which has a funding level of $300 million in the proposed 2016 state budget.
The proposal also increases funding for farmland protection by $5 million. This increase builds on last year's historic investment in farmland protection, including the $20 million Hudson Valley Agricultural Enhancement Program, the first-ever regionally targeted farmland preservation grant program.
Municipalities, counties, soil and water conservation districts and land trusts are eligible to apply for individual grants through the program's Round 14 Request for Proposals to protect viable agricultural land from being converted to non-agricultural use.
The application is available at www.agriculture.ny.gov/RFPS.
This funding opportunity continues the state's renewed commitment to provide financial assistance for farmland protection on a two-year cycle. In addition, the state Department of Agriculture and Markets has taken further actions to streamline the application and grant disbursement process.
Required forms needed to complete a project have been further reduced and clarified. Applicants are now allowed to submit up to six proposals per qualifying entity, and the $29,000-per-acre limitation on the state's contribution toward these projects has been removed, which eliminates a potential deterrent for some applicants.
The department's previous streamlining measures have resulted in significant reductions in the overall time needed to complete projects. Three projects awarded in October 2014 were completed in less than one year. The process in previous rounds has averaged nearly four years.