Farmland property owners in Pennsylvania can protect their land under four different laws:
- The Federal Farmland Protection Policy Act (FPPA) protects soils designated as farmland soils in the county and requires coordination with the US Department of Agricultural, Natural Resources Conservation Service. This designation only applies to federally funded projects.
- PA Act 100 protects Productive Agricultural Land (PAL) – land that is currently farmed (does not include timberlands) - from conversion to highway use. This policy requires coordination with the Agricultural Lands Condemnation Approval Board (ALCAB) before an acquisition of PAL. There are exemptions for bridges replaced on alignment, reconstructions, elimination of curves, and widening projects. This designation only applies to PennDOT projects.
- The Pennsylvania Agricultural Lands Protection Policy (ALPP) protects agricultural land that has been in active production for the past three years from conversion to highway use. This policy requires coordination with the ALCAB, if ALCAB approval is not already exempt under PA Act 100. This act considers whether farmland is enrolled in a protection class (highest to lowest: farmland preservation easement, agricultural security area, preferential assessments (i.e., clean and green), and agricultural zoning (not the same as municipal zoning – agricultural zoning is a special type of zoning).
- PA Act 43 is similar to PA Act 100 but expanded protection to all projects completed by agencies that have eminent domain powers in PA (municipalities, etc.).
In order to comply with these laws and regulations, the Project Team has interviewed property owners and farm operators in the project area to determine what parcels are farmed, how they are used, and what protections are afforded to those parcels. Coordination with the municipalities and the county has verified specific farmland protections like agricultural easements or agricultural security areas. An analysis of impacts to farmland is conducted as alignments are developed and alignments may be modified to reduce impacts to farmland. The analysis of agricultural impacts and related documentation will be submitted to both state and federal agencies for review and concurrence that the project has done everything possible to minimize impacts to farmland.
In addition, the planning work being completed for the project will help ensure that future development properly considers the current land uses and context of the area. The planning work, if implemented properly by the municipalities, will help preserve farmland in the proposed corridor.