Farmland Protection

Farmland Protection in Essex County

Soils useful for farming are a non-renewable resource and more rare than you would think. Even still, farmland is being developed around the country at an alarming rate. Working to ensure valuable farmland is protected involves the cooperation and support of many organizations and disciplines. Our agricultural program works to support farmland protection in various ways:

- Leading the Ag Districts program and Farmland Protection Board

- Supporting farmers in finding and securing new farmland, as Regional Navigator for the American Farmland Trust 

- Supporting farmers in transitioning farmland to the next generation 

- Leading the creation of a new Farmland Protection Plan for Essex County (see right sidebar for details)

Farmland Transition Support

Planning for the future and fate of your land may take a great deal of time and thought. Here are some resources on where to start. Connect with us with further questions.

Succession planning involves several steps and working with a team of service professionals along the way. This resource guide for Service Providers for Succession Planning, Land Transactions & Business Operations for Farmland, Forestland & Conservation lists contacts for Essex County and the surrounding region. This resource was prepared in collaboration with Adirondack Land Trust and Champlain Area Trails.

Make sure to read the series of articles we've put together that explain the process of succession planning and what you need to know published by the Sun Community News!

The American Farmland Trust 'Your Land is Your Legacy: A Guide to Planning the Future of Your Farm' is an excellent how-to for succession planning.

The Farm Transfer Seminar Video Series by ANCA's North Country Center for Businesses in Transition team covers various topics related to land transfer, from tax concerns, estate planning, management succession, recruitment and more.

The Land for Good's Landowner's Guide for Leasing Land for Farming relays reasons why leasing may be an option you consider and how to go about it. Leasing your farmland can: provide you with regular income, allow you to continue owning and using land, reduce the large tax burden of selling your land outright, make it easier for the next generation of farmer to afford farmland, and give you time to trial potential buyers to make sure they share your goals and desires for the future of your land.

Glossary of Land Transfer Terms

Many more resources and websites are listed and described in this resource sheet

Ag Districts and Ag Assessment

Ag Districts in Essex County

New York State instituted the Agricultural Districts Law in 1971. Landowners may apply to induct land used for farming into the Ag District in order to officially designate the land as "agricultural". The main incentive for this designation is to protect a landowner's "Right to Farm." Farming may come with noise, odors, etc that a neighbor may object to, but if farmland is part of the Ag District, and the farmer is following best management practices, the farmer is protected legal action from neighbors. In addition, realtors are obligated to advise land-seekers when land is near Ag District properties, in order to protect neighbors as well.

Before you consider applying to be part of the Ag District, please FIRST check the Essex County GIS Tax Map Viewer , which now has a layer where you can see Ag District parcels. Go to the right of the map, click layers, click Essex County, and choose "Ag District". You may need to zoom in for this layer to activate.

You may apply to be in the Ag District from October 20-Nov 19th by filling out the Agricultural District Review Worksheet and emailing it (or mailing it) to

The Farmland Protection Board will vote on your application, based on the level and status of agricultural use, soils, and proximity to other farmland.

Existing Criteria that is Currently Applied When Examining Petitions to Add/Remove Lands from an Agricultural District:

Use of property based on owner information, satellite imagery and site visit (if necessary)

Property class according to local assessor records

Whether the property receives an agricultural exemption based on Real Property records

Are prime, prime if drained, or soils of statewide significance present based on NRCS data

Do local land use regulations allow for agricultural use at property location

NYS Agriculture and Markets has developed a number of guidance documents for both municipalities and farmer regarding Agricultural Districts. The website also contains more information on Sound Agricultural Practices and department reviews.

Click here to visit NYS Agriculture & Markets website

Concise Summary of the Role of Ag Districts

Explanation of how Ag District applications are evaluated by the Farmland Protection Board

Guidelines and Information Regarding Section 305-a Review of Restrictive Laws

Ag Districts Q&A Fact Sheet by Sullivan County

NYS Agriculture & Markets Ag Districts Brochure

Ag Disclosure Notice for Realtors

Agricultural Assessments

The Ag Assessments Program allows land both within and outside agricultural districts to be taxed at its agricultural assessment, rather than at its fair market value. The agricultural assessment value establishes an “upper limit” for taxable assessments on eligible farmland. Any assessed value which exceeds the equalized agricultural assessment on the land may qualify for a reduced tax assessment. Landowners must apply to their local town assessor annually for an agricultural assessment.

To qualify for an agricultural assessment, you must meet one of the following criteria:

  1. Own at least seven acres of land which produces a minimum of $10,000 annually, or own less than seven acres of land which produces a minimum of $50,000 annually, on average, in the preceding two years from the sale of crops, livestock, or livestock products.
  2. Have a start-up farm operation in the first year of operation on owned or rented land that meets the minimum acreage and sales thresholds.
  3. Own rented land if the land independently satisfies the minimum acreage and sales requirements (see above) or is being used pursuant to a lease agreement of five or more years in conjunction with land which independently qualifies (in other words, if the operation leasing the land meets the acreage and sales requirements).

For more detailed information on Ag Value Assessments, please visit the NYS Department of Taxation & Finance for an overview of the rules as well as all the necessary forms you will need to apply. Although these forms are on the state website, they are submitted to the county tax assessor.

Remember: Applications for Agricultural Assessments are due March 1 each year, so please plan accordingly.

If you think you qualify for an agricultural assessment, the first step is to contact the Essex County Soil and Water Conservation District to have a soil map of your property made. Your assessor will use this worksheet, along with the rest of your application, to help determine your assessment.

To learn more about Agricultural Exemptions visit NYS Department of Taxation and Finance.

Download the NYS Ag & Markets Agriculture Assessment Brochure.

To learn more about Agricultural Exemptions read the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance Farm Building Exemptions” Brochure.

Last updated March 7, 2024