1- What is an Agricultural Security Area (ASA)?
An Agricultural Security Area (ASA) entitles landowners and farmers to special consideration from local and state government agencies, thus encouraging the continuing use of the land for productive agricultural purposes. The local government unit may not impose ordinances that unreasonably restrict farm structures or practices within the ASA, nor may normal farming operations and practices be deemed nuisances in a nuisance ordinance. The key features of the Agricultural Security Area Law (Act 43) are: farmer protection from condemnation, protection from nuisance laws, and the ability to apply to the Berks County Agricultural Conservation Easement (ACE) program. Agricultural Security Areas do not restrict land use or negatively impact landowners.
2- How do I enroll in an Agricultural Security Area (ASA)?
To view the ASA enrollment procedure and to download the ASA form, click here.
3- Is a farm protected in the ACE Program forever?
YES! An Agricultural Conservation Easement is a perpetual easement, thus, the farm is protected forever. Though the ownership of the farm may change, the easement remains with the deed, and is recorded with the Berks County Recorder of Deeds office.
4- If my application is not selected, do I need to re-apply the next year?
NO. You do not need to re-apply to the program. We will continue to rank your farm until you notify us with a signed letter stating otherwise. However, if you need to update or change you application, you should contact our office so that we can advise you on the issue. You should contact our office since you originally applied if:
• The farming operation has changed
• More land has been acquired for your operation that you would like to include in your application
• A portion of land was sold or will be excluded from your application
• A structure has been constructed on the property that is not agricultural in nature
• The conservation plan has been completed/updated and is in the process of implementation.
5- Why didn’t my farm get selected?
Farms are ranked according to the Land Evaluation Site Assessment (LESA), which is a tried and tested computer-based program that was developed by Penn State University. The LESA ranking process has four different categories that are taken into account when ranking a farm; soils, farmland potential, development potential, and clustering potential. After each of these categories is ranked, the computer program generates a score for the farm. The farms with the highest scores are selected for easement purchase, thus, easement selection is made without bias, discrimination, or political ties.
Click here to review the list of factors associated with each category in the ranking.
6- What locations did you target the selection this year?
We do not target any specific areas during the selection process. Farms are selected based on the ranking system described above.
7- What is Clean and Green?
The Clean & Green Act of 1974 was established to preserve farmland, forest land, and open space by taxing land according to its use rather than the prevailing market value. The program is administered by the Berks County Assessment Office. The program is voluntary and generally requires that a 10 acre minimum remain in designated use (agricultural use, agricultural reserve, and forest reserve). Parcels of less than 10 acres and capable of producing $2,000 annually from the sale of agricultural products are eligible for the agricultural use designation. Land taken out of the permitted use becomes subject to a rollback tax, imposed for up to seven years, and an interest penalty. To learn more or apply to the Clean and Green program, you can request information and an application from the Berks County Assessment Office. The telephone number for this office is 610-478-6262.
8- Must my farm be in Clean & Green to apply to the ACE program?
NO. Your farm does not need to be enrolled in Clean and Green to apply to the Agricultural Conservation Easement (ACE) program.
9- I do not own a farm. What can I do to help?
There are several ways that you can help preserve farmland in Berks County. You can donate money to our program or the newly established non-profit organization, Adopt an Acre Inc.
10- What do I need to do to have a conservation plan on my farm?
There are three ways for a landowner to obtain a conservation plan. The landowner can contact the Berks County Conservation District at (610) 372-4657 to speak to a Conservation Specialist, contact a private consultant, or write your own plan, including soil loss equations, and submit the plan to our board for approval.
11- I do not own a farm, but I am interested in purchasing one.
To find out more information about how to purchase a farm visit AgMap or Pennsylvania FarmLink.
12- How is the program funded?
The Agricultural Conservation Easement (ACE) program is a jointly funded State and County program. Funds from the State are from the Growing Greener Program and the funds from Berks County are from a $30 million bond that was awarded in 1999 by the Berks County Commissioners. In December of 2005, the Berks County Commissioners awarded a $24 million line of credit specifically for the purchase of agricultural easements. The Agricultural Land Preservation Board began to utilize the line of credit in 2006 and will continue to do so for the next four years. Funds are sometimes available from the federal government from the Farm and Ranch Lands Program. Since this program's inception in 1996, Berks County has received $806,100. These additional funds allow Berks County to maximize County and state monies.
13- What is PennVEST?
To learn more about PennVEST, click here.