County Planning Department Moves Ahead With Ag District Review
Published: August 19th, 2022
By: Shawn Magrath

CHENANGO COUNTY – The Chenango County Department of Planning and Development is looking to renew the county’s northwestern territory designation as an “agricultural district,” citing threats to the region which include property and commercial development, fluctuating milk prices, and waning interest in family farming.

Department heads appeared before the Chenango County’s Ag, Buildings and Grounds Committee on Tuesday seeking county officials’ permission to preserve Agricultural District 2a, which encompasses the towns of German, Lincklaen, McDonough, Otselic, Pharsalia, and Pitcher.

Under New York State Agriculture and Market law, agricultural districts must be reviewed every eight years.

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The county’s three existing ag districts are vital to the local farming community, explained County Planner Matt Gladstone. Agricultural districts are designated to protect farmers and their operations from homeowners who might have complaints about smells, sounds, and sullied roads.

“The purpose of this is to protect the farmers, protect the farmland, and make sure the district is agriculturally viable so Chenango County can stay an agricultural community,” he said.

Other benefits of ag districts include eligibility for an agricultural assessment for farmers operating in an ag district. What’s more, it allows fire protection or ambulance districts for which a special ad valorem tax is made, to pass a resolution authorizing ag assessments to be used for the benefit of assessment or a special ad valorem levy.

Compared to the county’s other two agricultural districts, Ag District 2a doesn’t face severe pressures, such as major state highways or commercial developments. Nevertheless, the district saw a nearly 5 percent loss of viable farmland since its last review in 2014 — often the result of farmland changing hands or being reclassified as residential.

Of the 46,011 acres encompassing Ag District 2a, the county planning department found that more than 66 percent of it still remains agriculturally viable, down from 72 percent in its last review.

Local ag districts are crucial in maintaining a viable agriculture industry by easing the cost of the ag business and the regulatory restraints associated with growth of a farming business, according to the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets.

The next step for Ag District 2a review is a public hearing on Sept. 12, followed by a vote of approval from the Chenango County Board of Supervisors. After that, the map needs approval from both Cornell University and NYS Agriculture and Markets.