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Farm Board: Farmland Preservation is at Risk

The Sterling Raber Agricultural Land Preservation Board of Lehigh County is asking the public to contact Gov. Tom Corbett and state lawmakers to keep funding for agricultural land preservation intact.

Editor's Note: The following release was submitted by the Lehigh County Farmland Preservation office.

The Sterling Raber Agricultural Land Preservation Board of Lehigh County opposed Governor Corbett's budget proposal to eliminate the state cigarette tax as the primary source of dedicated funding for farmland preservation in Pennsylvania.

The Board asks that local officials and the public contact the Governor's office and their state legislators to express opposition to the Governor's plan to cut this critical source of state funding for agricultural land preservation.

What's your position? Tell us in the comments.

Until this year, $20.5 million of state cigarette tax revenue was distributed annually to counties to help them buy development rights that preserve farmland.

The tax revenue has helped Pennsylvania create the most successful farmland preservation program in the nation, preserving more than 460,000 acres on more than 4,200 farms. 

The Governor's proposed 2012-2013 budget calls for the $20.5 million in cigarette tax revenue to be transferred to the state general fund, and it would be temporarily replaced with bond money. But the Governor has not said how or if he would replace or restore the cigarette tax revenue beyond 2012.

This year the Commonwealth has allocated $655,616 to Lehigh County for the preservation of farmland subject to the approval of 2012-2013 state budget. Future state farmland preservation funding is at risk if the Governor's budget proposal is approved.

This could be a devastating loss for Lehigh County farmland preservation program, which is regarded as one of the most successful county preservation programs in the state. Over the past 22 years, the commonwealth and county together have spent more than $65 million to preserve more than 20,500 acres of Lehigh County farmland.

Combined with Lehigh County's decision last year to temporaraily suspend county funding for farmland preservation, the loss of state funding could stop the continued preservation of farmland in the county.

There are now 78 farms, offering more than 3,100 acres of farmland, on Lehigh County's farmland preservation program waiting list.

For more information, contact Lehigh County Farmland Preservation at 610-391-9583.

Editor's Note: In Lehigh County, 242 farms have so far been preserved, totalling nearly 6,700 acres.

A breakdown includes:

  • South Whitehall, 1 farm¬†
  • Lower Milford, 38 farms
  • Upper Macungie, 8 farms
  • Lower Macungie, 6 farms, 448.1 acres
  • Upper Milford, 11 farms
  • Upper Saucon, 7 farms

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