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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:
  1. Pennsylvania Act 1979-100 (Act 100)
  2. Pennsylvania Act 1981-43 Agricultural Area Security Law (Act 43)
  3. Farmland Enrolled in Act 319 of 1974, As Amended, (Clean and Green) or Act 515 of 1996, As Amended; and
  4. Pa Code, Chapter 7, Section 7.301 et seq. Agricultural Land Preservation Policy

All of these legislative issues are described below. The descriptions are intended to briefly discuss the objectives of each piece of legislation.

  1. 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 follows:

    • ALCAB has jurisdiction over the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and all of its political subdivisions, agencies, or authorities, including PENNDOT.
    • 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 project.

  2. 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 as follows:

    • 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 roadways.

  3. 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 515.

    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 the Act.

  4. 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 land:

    1. farmland preserved through deed restrictions;
    2. Agricultural Security Areas;
    3. farmland enrolled for preferential tax assessments as land in agricultural use or farmland;
    4. farmland preserved through effective agricultural zoning; and
    5. 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 43).

 
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