Farmland Studies <BACK
PENNSYLVANIA AGRICULTURAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS
Legislation in the state of Pennsylvania has been generated to protect
farmland from being converted to nonagricultural uses as a result of a
federal or state-funded programs. This legislation includes:
- Pennsylvania Act 1979-100 (Act 100)
- Pennsylvania Act 1981-43 Agricultural Area Security Law (Act 43)
- Farmland Enrolled in Act 319 of 1974, As Amended, (Clean and Green)
or Act 515 of 1996, As Amended; and
- Pa Code, Chapter 7, Section 7.301 et seq. Agricultural Land Preservation
All of these legislative issues are described below. The descriptions
are intended to briefly discuss the objectives of each piece of legislation.
- Pennsylvania Act 1979-100. Pennsylvania Act 1979-100 established
the Agricultural Lands Condemnation Approval Board (ALCAB). This is
an independent administrative board with approval authority over the
condemnation of productive agricultural land for certain types of
transportation projects. The five main features of Act 100 are as
- ALCAB has jurisdiction over the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
and all of its political subdivisions, agencies, or authorities,
- ALCAB has jurisdiction over the condemnation of lands that are
presently being used for productive agricultural purposes, not
including the growing of timber.
- ALCAB has jurisdiction over condemnation for highway purposes,
not including improvements to existing highways such as widening
roadways, eliminating curves, or reconstruction of roadways.
- ALCAB has 60 days upon receipt of the request for determination
to make a decision. If no determination is made within those 60
days, condemnation may proceed.
- ALCAB grants approval of condemnation if no reasonable and prudent
alternative exists for the use of the agricultural land for the
Pennsylvania Act 1981-43 Agricultural Area Security Law. Pennsylvania
Act 43 gives landowners the right to propose the creation of Agricultural
Security Areas (ASA) to municipal governments. An ASA must contain
250 acres of viable agricultural land, which may comprise non-contiguous
tracts of at least ten acres in size. In addition, Act 43 has established
a Commonwealth program to acquire perpetual agricultural conservation
easements within an ASA. Some of the main features of Act 43 are
- Act 43 authorizes the municipal government to establish an
agricultural area advisory committee to provide expert advice
upon receiving a proposal to create an ASA. If an ASA is created,
it is reviewed every seven years, at which time it may be renewed,
terminated or modified. An ASA may be reviewed prior to the end
of its seventh year if ten percent of the land within the ASA
is converted to nonagricultural development.
- Prior to condemnation, PENNDOT must request a determination
from ALCAB that there is no prudent and reasonable alternative
to the utilization of land used for productive agricultural purposes
within a presently approved ASA.
- Act 43 prohibits municipalities from enacting laws or ordinances
that would unreasonably restrict farm practices within an ASA.
Act 43 expands ALCAB's jurisdiction over any type of project that
involves the condemnation of ASA land. As with Act 100, Act 43
does not give ALCAB jurisdiction over projects relating to existing
Farmland Enrolled in Act 319 of 1974, As Amended, (Clean and Green)
or Act 515 of 1996, As Amended. Act 515 enables Pennsylvania counties
to contract with landowners to preserve land in farm, forest, water
supply, or open space. Preservation of these lands is accomplished
by taxing land according to its use value rather than the current
market value. The voluntary program requires a minimum acreage enrollment
that will remain in the designated land use for a ten-year period.
The law includes penalties for violations and extensions of the
agreement. The Board of County Commissioners administers Act 515.
The law does not require the County Commissioners to implement Act
Act 515 is a forerunner to Act 319, the "Clean and Green"
Act, a constitutional amendment permitting preferential assessment
of farmland and forestland. The goal of Act 319 is to preserve farmland,
forestland, and open space by taxing land according to its use value
rather than the current market value. The program is voluntary and
generally requires a minimum of ten acres that will remain in the
designated use (agricultural use, agricultural reserve, forest reserve).
The County Assessment Office administers Act 319, and the Pennsylvania
Department of Agriculture makes rules and regulations governing
Pa Code, Chapter 7, Section 7.301 et seq. Agricultural Land Preservation
Policy. The Agricultural Land Preservation Policy (ALPP) outlines
an agricultural preservation policy that all state agencies must
support. ALPP is intended to protect and preserve the Commonwealth's
"primary agricultural land." Primary agricultural land
is categorized into five priority levels of productive agricultural
- farmland preserved through deed restrictions;
- Agricultural Security Areas;
- farmland enrolled for preferential tax assessments as land in
agricultural use or farmland;
- farmland preserved through effective agricultural zoning; and
- farmland classified as unique, or as capability class I, II,
III, or IV land.
Primary agricultural land includes those lands in one of the five
categories that are currently in active agricultural use and have
been for the preceding three years. ALPP requires that ALCAB shall
consider the ALPP in its review of agricultural lands proposed for
condemnation authorized under the Administrative Code of 1929 as
amended in 1979 (Act 100) and Agricultural Area Security Law (Act