Farmland Studies <BACK
WHAT IS A FARMLAND ASSESSMENT STUDY?
Pennsylvania has a strong agricultural heritage. The agricultural products
produced in this state provide food, clothing, and shelter to Pennsylvania
residents as well as the rest of the nation. The Pennsylvania Department
of Transportation (PENNDOT) recognizes the value of such a resource,
and has sought to help protect our state's farmlands from conversion
to nonagricultural uses. In order to achieve this goal, PENNDOT has
incorporated farmland assessment studies into their Environmental Evaluation
Process for all federal and state-funded transportation projects.
The first step in a farmland assessment is to identify the agricultural
resources in the study area. This includes farm fields, farm buildings,
and farm support services (such as equipment retailers, farmer's markets,
etc.), which are identified using aerial photographs and field views.
Further investigations are performed to identify farmland in special
preservation programs. These programs include agricultural easements,
agricultural security areas, and lands enrolled in Act 515 or 319 (Federal
Agricultural Laws and Regulations). This information is gathered through
coordination with municipal and county government offices, the county
recorder of deeds office, the county agricultural land preservation
board, the county farm services agency office, the Pennsylvania Department
of Agriculture, and private conservation organizations. All agricultural
resources identified are then added to the environmental resource mapping.
Once alternatives have been developed, all efforts are made to avoid
and/or minimize impacts to farmlands while meeting the project's needs
and objectives. However, if avoidance is not possible, detailed information
on the farming operations is collected to best minimize harm to those
operations. Detailed data collection includes tax parcel research, the
identification of soil capability classes, and interviews with property
owners and farmers. Information gathered at this stage is placed on
mapping and used to determine detailed agricultural impacts for each
In order to document the alternatives analysis process and all efforts
to avoid impacts to agricultural lands, a Farmland Assessment Report
(FAR) is produced. This report provides a description of the development
and analysis of each alternative, its impacts to natural, socioeconomic,
and historic resources, engineering information, and an assessment as
to why this alternative was carried forward or dismissed. The FAR also
includes a detailed description of the preferred alternative, its impacts
to agricultural resources, and the efforts made to minimize harm to
this resource. FAR information is then presented to the Agricultural
Land Condemnation Approval Board (ALCAB) for approval to condemn agricultural
lands impacted by the preferred alternative.
The farmland assessment process is designed to avoid or minimize impacts
to our state's valuable farmland. It is through this type of effort
and protection that we will be able to preserve our rich agricultural
heritage and strong economic commodities.