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Cumberland County’s Farmland Preservation Program Achieves Milestone

With the recent addition of 187 acres of preserved farmland in Silver Spring Township, Cumberland County’s Farmland Preservation Program surpassed 200 farms preserved since the program’s inception in 1989. With a total of 22,120 acres of preserved farmland, ranking seventh in the state, the county continues to work towards its goal of preserving 30,000 acres of working farmland by 2030. A resolution – crafted and passed in 2019 by current Cumberland County Commissioner Vince DiFilippo and former Commissioner Jim Hertzler — formally acknowledged the importance of the agricultural industry to the county, the strong public support for farmland preservation, and the need to establish a long-term budgetary policy to support the Farmland Preservation Program.

Benefits of Farmland Preservation

Nation & State

Nationally, a recent study by American Farmland Trust shows that Americans are paving over agricultural land at a rapid pace. From 2001 through 2016, the nation lost or compromised 2,000 acres of farmland and ranchland every day. Rural sprawl, an aging farming population, and the increased threat of climate change highlight the need to embrace smart growth to save the nation’s irreplaceable farmlands.

Pennsylvania has some of the most fertile, non-irrigated soils found anywhere in the world. The 2021 Annual Report from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Farmland Preservation notes that the state is a national leader in farmland preservation, with 6,044 farms and 611,620 acres protected through permanent agricultural conservation easements. The pandemic and the accompanying global supply chain issues brought the importance of food security to the forefront and highlighted the continued need for farmland preservation. Public funds used toward easement purchases remain a critical investment in the future of Pennsylvania’s thriving $132.5 billion agricultural industry.

Cumberland County

Located in southcentral Pennsylvania, Cumberland County is the fastest-growing county in the state. While development pressure is increasing, agriculture remains the primary land use, with nearly 170,000 acres (48%) currently devoted to farming (2017 Census of Agriculture Country Profile).

“Our county’s growth is impressive and yet another reason to protect our ever-disappearing farmland,” notes Commissioner DiFilippo. Cumberland County ranks 8th in the state for total agriculture product, and the county’s agricultural sales value totals more than $219 million. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, one in six jobs in Cumberland County is in agriculture or related businesses. Farmland is an irreplaceable resource, and preserved working farms and agriculturally related businesses not only contribute significantly to the local economy but also enrich the quality of life in the region.

  • Local farms provide fresh food at a reasonable cost and ensure a food supply for a growing population.
  • Well-managed farms benefit the environment by providing wildlife habitat and groundwater recharge.
  • Protecting local farmland helps keep property taxes down.
  • Preserved farmland protects the region’s rural character and promotes local tourism by creating scenic landscapes that are important for attracting visitors.

Stephanie Williams, Farmland Preservation Program Administrator, notes that “while it’s challenging to balance conservation and development,” the program “works with local municipalities to encourage land use plans and ordinances that preserve and protect agriculture,” highlighting the importance of working collaboratively at the local level to help the preservation program achieve its goals.

Click here for more information about Cumberland County’s Farmland Preservation program, including an interactive map of preserved farms.

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