Agricultural Security Areas
Agricultural Security Areas (ASA) are intended to promote more permanent and viable farming operations over the long term by strengthening the farming community's sense of security in land use and the right to farm. Agricultural Security Areas are created by local municipalities in cooperation with individual landowners who agree to collectively place at least 250 acres in an agricultural security area.
About the ASA Program
The preservation of farmland by purchasing development rights got started in the Northeast United States during the 1970s.Pennsylvania took the first step in creating a program in 1981 when it adopted an Agricultural Security Area law (PA Act 43 of 1981). The law created a partnership between the landowner, local government, county government, and state government. The federal government has occasionally provided funds and private land trusts also make contributions.
Landowners who wish to enroll their property in an ASA must fill out and enrollment form and submit three copies, including the required map by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the township in which the proposed agricultural security area is located.
- Landowners initiate the process of creating an Agricultural Security Area (ASAs) by petitioning their Township.
- The Township approves the creation of the ASA and is responsible for renewing the areas every 7 years.
- Since 1999, municipalities also can provide money for the purchase of ag easements.
- Counties have been responsible for organizing programs to purchase agricultural conservation easements (referred to as the PACE program).
- Agricultural Security Areas are created when owners with at least 500 acres of land notify the township supervisors that they wish to be included in an ASA and the municipality approves the application in accordance with Act 43.
Centre County Agricultural Security Areas, 2013
Agricultural security areas provide the following benefits to landowners:
- Municipalities agree to support agriculture by not passing nuisance ordinances which would restrict normal farming operations.
- Limitations are placed on the ability of government to condemn farmland located in an agricultural security area for new schools, highways, parks, or other governmental projects.
- Landowners who are part of a 500 acre or larger agricultural security area may be eligible to apply to sell a perpetual agricultural conservation easement (or their development rights) through their local Agricultural Land Preservation Program.
- Federal loan applicants may qualify for a lower interest rate.
- Having land enrolled in an agricultural security area does not restrict a landowner's ability to use his or her property for non-agricultural development purposes.
- Only land in an ASA can be considered for the purchase of an Agricultural Conservation Easement through the Centre County PACE Program.
Centre County ASA
- Non-contiguous farm parcels must be at least 10 acres in size. The farm tracts needed to create a new 250 acre or larger agricultural security area do not have to be under the same ownership or even be located in the same municipality. The Agricultural Area Security Law (Act 43 of 1981) allows for the creation of joint municipality agricultural security areas.
- The property should be viable agricultural land. Cropland, pasture, and woodland can all be included in an agricultural security area.
- At least 50% of the land should be in Soil Capability Classes I-IV, as defined by the county soil survey.
- The property must be zoned to permit agricultural uses.