Farmland Preservation Program
Easement Purchase Program
Sussex County Agriculture Development Board
This program is open to any landowner with 25 acres or more of farm assessed land, or a lesser amount of acreage if it is contiguous to other deed restricted farms, or applications for this program. Interested farmers/landowners should contact the Sussex County Agriculture Development Board (SCADB) at 973-579-0500.
The first step in this process is to have your land designated as an Agriculture Development Area (ADA). Simply, this means that your land has potential for long term agriculture and is located in an area where agriculture still exists. A simple, two page form is filled out and returned with a copy of the deed for the land and the latest farmland assessment form to the SCADB. This can be done throughout the year. The ADA is not a legally binding designation; however, it is a requirement of both the County and State programs for eligibility. After review, a short public hearing is held at which Board members may question the applicant as to current farming practices. Once approved, the farmer/landowner is then eligible to apply to the Easement Purchase Program, the 8 year Farmland Preservation Program and/or the Direct Easement Purchase Program.
County applications for the traditional Easement Purchase Program are accepted throughout the year. They are reviewed by the SCADB and a site visit is scheduled for each farm. Applications are evaluated based on specific State and County criteria. This includes: size, soil type, percent of tillable acres, boundaries and buffers, proximity to other farms in this program, and local commitment. The County selects the amount of farms/acreage it believes it will be able to fund. This is a competitive process at both the County and State levels.
Once selected, two independent appraisals are done on each farm. Appraisers are required to be certified by the State program insuring familiarity with the process. A fair market value is arrived at for each farm, additionally, an agricultural restricted value is also determined. The easement value (the value offered to the farmer/landowner) is the fair market value minus the agricultural value. Since two appraisals are done, two values are arrived at. The State cannot offer the landowner higher than the higher of the two appraisals, or lower than the lower of the two. If the landowner accepts the State offer, the county then continues the process. The County has title work and a survey done for farms receiving final State, County and Municipal approvals, and then schedules a closing. The land is then deed restricted, in perpetuity, for agricultural use. This land can be sold on the open market at any time - however, it must be sold as a farm. The land remains in private ownership; the County has only purchased the development easement. Monitoring is conducted once a year to substantiate that an agricultural activity is occurring on deed restricted land. Land in the Easement Purchase program may also receive soil and water conservation practice cost share funding.
Preserved Farmland in Sussex County List 1
Sussex County's Comprehensive Farmland Preservation Plan