Home Table of Contents

§ 914.1. Purchase of agricultural conservation easements

Purdon's Pennsylvania Statutes and Consolidated StatutesTitle 3 P.S. AgricultureEffective: August 30, 2019

Purdon's Pennsylvania Statutes and Consolidated Statutes
Title 3 P.S. Agriculture (Refs & Annos)
Chapter 14A. Agricultural Area Security (Refs & Annos)
Effective: August 30, 2019
3 P.S. § 914.1
§ 914.1. Purchase of agricultural conservation easements
(a) State Agricultural Land Preservation Board.--The Department of Agriculture and the State Agricultural Land Preservation Board shall administer pursuant to this section a program for the purchase of agricultural conservation easements by the Commonwealth.
(1) There is established within the Department of Agriculture as a departmental board the State Agricultural Land Preservation Board. The State board shall consist of 17 members.
(i) There shall be eight voting ex officio members of the State board: the Secretary of Agriculture, who shall serve as the board chairman; the Secretary of Community and Economic Development, or his designee; the Secretary of Environmental Protection, or his designee; the Chairman and the Minority Chairman of the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, or their designees; the Chairman and the Minority Chairman of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, or their designees; and the Dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences of The Pennsylvania State University, or his designee.
(ii) Five members shall be appointed by the Governor. One member shall be a current member of the governing body of a county, one member shall be a person who is recognized as having significant knowledge in agricultural fiscal and financial matters, one member shall be an active resident farmer of this Commonwealth, one member shall be a residential, commercial or industrial building contractor, and one member shall be a current member of a governing body. Initially, two members shall be appointed for a term of four years, two members shall be appointed for a term of three years and one member shall be appointed for a term of two years. Thereafter, the terms of all members appointed herein shall be four years. The term of a person appointed to replace another member whose term has not expired shall be only the unexpired portion of that term. Members may be reappointed to successive terms.
(iii) One member each shall be appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Minority Leader of the Senate, who shall, at the time of appointment, be resident farm owners and operators of at least one commercial farm in this Commonwealth. The initial term of the appointee of the President pro tempore of the Senate shall be four years, the initial term of the appointee of the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall be three years, the initial term of the appointee of the Minority Leader of the Senate shall be two years and the initial term of the appointee of the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives shall be one year. Thereafter, the terms of all appointees shall be four years. An appointment made to fill an unexpired term shall be only for the duration of the unexpired term. Members may be reappointed to successive terms.
(2) Nine members shall constitute a quorum for purposes of conducting meetings and official actions pursuant to authority given to the State board under this act.
(3) It shall be the duty and responsibility of the State board to exercise the following powers:
(i) To adopt rules and regulations pursuant to this act: Provided, That the board shall have the power and authority to promulgate, adopt, publish and use guidelines for the implementation of this act until September 30, 1990, or the effective date of final rules and regulations, whichever first occurs, pending adoption of final rules and regulations. Guidelines proposed under the authority of this section shall be subject to review by the General Counsel and the Attorney General in the manner provided for the review of proposed rules and regulations pursuant to the act of October 15, 1980 (P.L. 950, No. 164),1 known as the “Commonwealth Attorneys Act,” but shall not be subject to review pursuant to the act of June 25, 1982 (P.L. 633, No. 181),2 known as the “Regulatory Review Act.”
(ii) To adopt rules of procedure and bylaws governing the operations of the State board and the conduct of its meetings.
(iii) To review, and accept or reject, the recommendation made by a county board for the purchase of an agricultural conservation easement by the Commonwealth.
(iv) To execute agreements to purchase agricultural conservation easements in the name of the Commonwealth if recommended by a county and approved by the State board as provided in subparagraph (iii).
(v) To purchase in the name of the Commonwealth agricultural conservation easements if recommended by a county and approved by the State board as provided in subparagraph (iii).
(vi) To purchase agricultural conservation easements jointly with a county, or jointly with a county and a local government unit, or jointly with a county and an eligible nonprofit entity, or jointly with a county, a local government unit and an eligible nonprofit entity, if recommended by a county and approved by the State board as provided in subparagraph (iii).
(vii) To allocate State moneys among counties for the purchase of agricultural conservation easements, in accordance with provisions of subsection (g).
(viii) To establish and maintain a central repository of records which shall contain records of county programs for purchasing agricultural conservation easements, records of agricultural conservation easements purchased by local government units, by local government units and counties, by local government units and the Commonwealth and by eligible nonprofit entities in accordance with subsection (b.2) and records of agricultural conservation easements purchased by the Commonwealth. All records indicating the purchase of agricultural conservation easements shall refer to and describe the farm land subject to the agricultural conservation easement.
(ix) To record agricultural conservation easements purchased by the Commonwealth or jointly owned, in the office of the recorder of deeds of the county wherein the agricultural conservation easements are located.
(x) To establish and publish the standards, criteria and requirements necessary for State board approval of county programs for purchasing agricultural conservation easements.
(xi) To review and certify and approve, or disapprove, county programs for purchasing agricultural conservation easements.
(xii) To exercise other discretionary powers as may be necessary and appropriate for the exercise and performance of its duties, powers and responsibilities under this act.
(xiii) To determine an annual easement purchase threshold.
(xiv) To review and approve or disapprove for recertification each county program for the purchase of agricultural conservation easements.
(xv) To authorize the development of a guidebook defining all technical elements necessary for a complete application for purchase of an agricultural conservation easement. Such guidebook shall include model formats of the specific components of applications. Guidebooks shall be distributed to every county with an approved program for purchasing agricultural conservation easements.
(4) The State board is authorized to:
(i) Take the actions necessary to qualify for Federal guarantees and interest rate assistance for agricultural easement purchase loans under Chapter 2 of the Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990 (Public Law 101-624, 104 Stat. 3616).
(ii) Segregate from the Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Fund, into a Farms for the Future Trust Fund, funds necessary to qualify for the maximum amount of funding made available under the Federal act. There shall be deposited in this trust fund, and are appropriated for the purposes of this act, any interest rate assistance subsidies provided by participation in the Federal program. The State board is authorized to deposit interest accruing on moneys in the trust fund, in excess of the amounts needed to satisfy interest payments, in the Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Fund.
(b) County programs.--After the establishment of an agricultural security area by the governing body, the county governing body may authorize a program to be administered by the county board for purchasing agricultural conservation easements from landowners whose land is either within an agricultural security area or in compliance with the criteria set forth in paragraph (2)(i).
(1) The county board shall be composed of five, seven or nine members appointed by the county governing body. The chairman of the county governing body shall designate annually one member of the county board to serve as chairman of the county board. County board members shall be appointed from among the following groups: the number of farmers shall constitute one less than a majority of the board; one member shall be a current member of the governing body of a township or borough located within the county; one member shall be a commercial, industrial or residential building contractor; and the other members shall be selected at the pleasure of the county governing body. The county board membership of the member of the governing body of a township or borough located within the county shall be deemed vacant upon vacancy in, or the expiration of the term of, the township or borough office to which the member was elected. The term of the initial farmer appointees shall be three years, the initial term of the current member of the governing body of a township or borough shall be two years and the initial term of all other members shall be one year. Thereafter, the term of all members shall be three years.
(2) It shall be the duty and responsibility of the county board to exercise the following powers:
(i)(A) To adopt rules and regulations for the administration of a county program for the purchase of agricultural conservation easements in accordance with the provisions of this act, including, but not limited to, rules and regulations governing the submission of applications by landowners, establishing standards and procedures for the appraisal of property eligible for purchase as an agricultural conservation easement, establishing minimum criteria for eligibility of viable agricultural land a portion of which is used for commercial equine activity and establishing standards and procedures for the selection or purchase of agricultural conservation easements.
(A.1) Prior to exercising authority under subsection (b.2), to include in such rules and regulations, standards and procedures for the participation with eligible nonprofit entities in the purchase of agricultural conservation easements as described in subsection (b.2).
(B) To include in such rules and regulations, standards and procedures for the selection or purchase of agricultural conservation easements, in accordance with subsection (b.2), by the county solely or jointly with the Commonwealth, a local government unit, an eligible nonprofit entity or any combination of these, on that portion of a parcel which is not within an agricultural security area if all of the following criteria are complied with:
(I) The land is part of a parcel of farm land which is bisected by the dividing line between two local government units.
(II) The majority of the farm's viable agricultural land is located within an existing agricultural security area. Upon purchase of an easement covering the portion of the parcel which is not located within an agricultural security area, that portion of the parcel shall immediately become part of the previously established agricultural security area which contains a majority of the farm's viable agricultural land. The governing body which created the agricultural security area which contains a majority of the farm's viable agricultural land shall be responsible for the recording, filing and notification outlined in section 8(d) and (g)3 concerning land added to the agricultural security area pursuant to this clause.
(C) To include in such rules and regulations, standards and procedures for the selection or purchase of agricultural conservation easements, in accordance with subsection (b.2), by the county solely or jointly with the Commonwealth, a local government unit, an eligible nonprofit entity or any combination of these, on that portion of a parcel located in an adjoining county if all of the following criteria are complied with:
(I) The land is part of a parcel of farm land which is bisected by the dividing line between the purchasing county and the adjoining county.
(II) Either a mansion house is located on that portion of the parcel which is within the purchasing county or the dividing line between the counties bisects the mansion house and the owner of the parcel has chosen the purchasing county as the situs of assessment for tax purposes or, if there is no mansion house on the parcel, the majority of the farm's viable agricultural land is located in the purchasing county.
(III) The portion of the parcel located in the purchasing county is within an agricultural security area. Upon purchase of an easement by the purchasing county covering that portion of the parcel located in the adjoining county, the portion of the parcel located in the adjoining county shall immediately become part of the agricultural security area previously established in the purchasing county. The governing body which created the agricultural security area in the purchasing county shall be responsible for the recording, filing and notification outlined in section 8(d) and (g) concerning land added to the agricultural security area pursuant to this clause.
(ii) To adopt rules of procedure and bylaws governing the operation of the county board and the conduct of its meetings.
(iii) To execute agreements to purchase agricultural conservation easements in the name of the county.
(iv) To purchase in the name of the county agricultural conservation easements either within agricultural security areas or pursuant to the criteria set forth in subparagraph (i).
(v) To use moneys appropriated by the county governing body from the county general fund to hire staff and administer the county program.
(vi) To use moneys appropriated by the county governing body from the county general fund or the proceeds of indebtedness incurred by the county and approved by the county governing body for the purchase of agricultural conservation easements either within agricultural security areas or pursuant to the criteria set forth in subparagraph (i).
(vii) To establish and maintain a repository of records of farm lands which are subject to agricultural conservation easements purchased by the county.
(viii) To record agricultural conservation easements purchased by the county in the office of the recorder of deeds of the county wherein the agricultural conservation easements are located and to submit to the State board a certified copy of agricultural conservation easements within 30 days after recording. The county board shall attach to all certified copies of the agricultural conservation easements submitted to the State board a description of the farm land subject to the agricultural conservation easements.
(ix) To submit to the State board for review the initial county program and any proposed revisions to approved county programs for purchasing agricultural conservation easements.
(x) To recommend to the State board for purchase by the Commonwealth agricultural conservation easements within agricultural security areas located within the county.
(xi) To recommend to the State board the purchase of agricultural conservation easements by the Commonwealth and the county jointly, or jointly by the Commonwealth, the county and a local government unit, or jointly by the Commonwealth, the county and an eligible nonprofit entity, or jointly by the Commonwealth, the county, a local government unit and an eligible nonprofit entity.
(xii) To purchase agricultural conservation easements jointly with the Commonwealth, or jointly with the Commonwealth, the county and a local government unit, or jointly with the Commonwealth, the county and an eligible nonprofit entity, or jointly with the Commonwealth, the county, a local government unit and an eligible nonprofit entity.
(xiii) To exercise other powers which are necessary and appropriate for the exercise and performance of its duties, powers and responsibilities under this act.
(xiv) To submit to the State board applications for agricultural conservation easements in accordance with the guidebook authorized under subsection (a)(3)(xv).
(xv) To exercise primary enforcement authority with respect to the following:
(A) Agricultural conservation easements within the county.
(B) Agricultural conservation easements acquired pursuant to the criteria set forth in subparagraph (i), including any portion of such an agricultural conservation easement extending into an adjoining county.
(xvi) Notwithstanding any other permitted or required use of accrued interest distributed in accordance with section 8(b.1) and (b.2) of the act of December 19, 1974 (P.L. 973, No. 319),4 known as the “Pennsylvania Farmland and Forest Land Assessment Act of 1974,” to use any portion of that accrued interest in the following manner:
(A) To develop conservation plans.
(B) To monitor and enforce agricultural conservation easements, including the payment of legal costs associated with defending an agricultural conservation easement.
(xvii) To inspect all agricultural conservation easements within the county on at least a biennial basis to determine compliance with the applicable deed of easement. The following shall apply to inspections:
(A) The first inspection shall be completed within one year of the date of easement sale.
(B) A landowner shall be notified of an inspection, and the inspection shall be conducted on a date and time agreeable to the county and the landowner.
(C) Within ten days of conducting an inspection, the county board shall prepare a written inspection report, which shall be provided to the landowner. If a violation is discovered, the report shall be provided to the landowner by certified mail.
(D) The county board and the State board may inspect the restricted land, jointly or severally, without prior notice if there is reasonable cause to believe that any provision of the deed of easement has been or is being violated.
(3) The county may incur debt pursuant to the act of July 12, 1972 (P.L. 781, No. 185),5 known as the “Local Government Unit Debt Act,” for the purchase of agricultural conservation easements.
(4) County programs for the purchase of agricultural conservation easements originally approved by the State board on or before December 31, 1994, shall be reviewed by the State board and approved or disapproved for recertification by December 31, 1996, and every seventh year thereafter. County programs for the purchase of agricultural conservation easements originally approved by the State board after December 31, 1994, shall be reviewed by the State board and approved or disapproved for recertification by December 31 of the seventh year after the date of original approval and every seventh year thereafter. On or before December 31, 1995, and the end of such other seven-year periods thereafter, the county board shall submit to the State board any proposed revisions to the county program for the purchase of agricultural conservation easements. County programs subject to State board review and recertification under this paragraph shall be approved or disapproved in accordance with the requirements of subsection (d), provided that the State board shall give priority to determining that county programs are in compliance with applicable provisions of law, regulations and guidelines. After December 31, 1996, and the end of such other seven-year periods, the State board shall not approve a county board's recommendation to purchase until the county program has been approved for recertification, provided that the State board may postpone the deadline for recertification of any county's program by up to 12 months and, during such period of postponement, may approve a county board's recommendation to purchase.
(5) The governing body of the county may authorize the establishment of a program for the purchase of agricultural conservation easements on an installment or other deferred basis. The obligation of the county to make payment on an installment or other deferred basis shall not be subject to the requirements of section 602(b) or (c) of the “Local Government Unit Debt Act.”6
(b.1) Local government unit participation.--Any local government unit that has created an agricultural security area may participate along with an eligible county and the Commonwealth, and an eligible nonprofit entity, in the preservation of farmland through the purchase of agricultural conservation easements.
(1) The local government unit, in conjunction with a county board, may participate with the State board in the purchase of agricultural conservation easements.
(2) The local government unit shall recommend to the county board the purchase of agricultural conservation easements by the eligible county and the local government unit as joint ownership.
(3) The local government unit shall recommend to the county board the purchase of agricultural conservation easements by the local government unit and the Commonwealth as joint ownership.
(4) The local government unit may purchase an agricultural conservation easement, provided that all of the following apply:
(i) The agricultural conservation easement is located within an agricultural security area of at least 500 acres or the easement purchase is a joint purchase with either a county or both a county and the Commonwealth pursuant to the criteria set forth in subsection (b)(2)(i).
(ii) The deed of agricultural conservation easement is at least as restrictive as the deed of agricultural conservation easement prescribed by the State board for agricultural conservation easements purchased by the Commonwealth.
(iii) The local government unit shall participate with the county board in complying with paragraph (5) for recording any agricultural conservation easement purchased by the local government unit.
(5) The county board shall be responsible to record agricultural conservation easements where a local government unit is a party to the purchase of the easement. The easement shall be recorded by the county board in the office of the recorder of deeds of the county wherein the agricultural conservation easements are located. The county board shall submit to the State board a certified copy of agricultural conservation easements within 30 days after recording. The county board shall attach to all certified copies of the agricultural conservation easements submitted to the State board a description of the farmland subject to the agricultural conservation easements.
(6) The local government unit may incur debt pursuant to 53 Pa.C.S. Pt. VII Subpt. B (relating to indebtedness and borrowing) for the purchase of agricultural conservation easements.
(b.2) Eligible nonprofit entity participation.--An eligible nonprofit entity may participate, along with an eligible county, the Commonwealth and a local government unit eligible to participate under subsection (b.1), in the preservation of farmland through the purchase of agricultural conservation easements.
(1) The eligible nonprofit entity may purchase an agricultural conservation easement if all of the following apply:
(i) The agricultural conservation easement is a joint purchase with the county and may include the Commonwealth or a local government unit, or both.
(ii) The deed of agricultural conservation easement is as prescribed by the State board for agricultural conservation easements purchased by the Commonwealth.
(2) The county board shall be responsible to record agricultural conservation easements where an eligible nonprofit entity is a party to the purchase of the easement. The easement shall be recorded by the county board in the office of the recorder of deeds of the county wherein the agricultural conservation easements are located. The county board shall submit to the State board a certified copy of agricultural conservation easements within 30 days after recording. The county board shall attach to all certified copies of the agricultural conservation easements submitted to the State board a description of the farmland subject to the agricultural conservation easements.
(c) Restrictions and limitations.--An agricultural conservation easement shall be subject to the following terms, conditions, restrictions and limitations:
(1) The term of an agricultural conservation easement shall be perpetual.
(2), (3) Deleted by 2011, July 7, P.L. 247, No. 44, § 2, effective in 60 days [Sept. 6, 2011].
(4) Instruments and documents for the purchase, sale and conveyance of agricultural conservation easements shall be approved by the State board or the county board, as the case may be, prior to execution and delivery. Proper releases from mortgage holders and lienholders must be obtained and executed to insure that all agricultural conservation easements are purchased free and clear of all encumbrances.
(5) Whenever any public entity, authority or political subdivision exercises the power of eminent domain and condemns land subject to an agricultural conservation easement, the condemnor shall provide just compensation to the owner of the land in fee and to the owner of the easement as follows:
(i) The owner of the land in fee shall be paid the full value which would have been payable to the owner but for the existence of an agricultural conservation easement less the value of the agricultural conservation easement at the time of condemnation.
(ii) The owner of the easement shall be paid the value of the easement at the time of condemnation.
(iii) For easements owned jointly by the Commonwealth and an eligible county, if the eligible county commits its share of funds received under this paragraph toward the purchase of agricultural conservation easements, the condemnor shall provide the Commonwealth's share of funds to the eligible county for use in purchasing agricultural conservation easements in accordance with this act.
(iv) For easements owned by the Commonwealth, the condemnor shall provide the Commonwealth's share of funds received under this paragraph to the eligible county for use in purchasing agricultural conservation easements in accordance with this act.
(v) Funds received by an eligible county under this paragraph shall not be considered matching funds under subsection (h).
(vi) If an eligible county which receives funds under this paragraph fails to spend the Commonwealth's share of funds within two years of receipt of the funds, the eligible county shall pay the Commonwealth the Commonwealth's share of funds received under this paragraph plus 6% simple interest. These funds shall be deposited into the Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Fund.
(6) An agricultural conservation easement shall not prevent:
(i) The granting of leases, assignments or other conveyances or the issuing of permits, licenses or other authorization for the exploration, development, storage or removal of coal or noncoal minerals by underground mining methods, oil and gas by the owner of the subject land or the owner of the underlying coal or noncoal minerals by underground mining methods, oil and gas or the owner of the rights to develop the underlying coal or noncoal minerals by underground mining methods, oil and gas, or the development of appurtenant facilities related to the removal of coal or noncoal minerals by underground mining methods, oil or gas development or activities incident to the removal or development of such minerals.
(ii) The granting of rights-of-way by the owner of the subject land in and through the land for the installation of, transportation of, or use of water, sewage, electric, telephone, coal or noncoal minerals by underground mining methods, gas, oil or oil products lines.
(iii) Construction and use of structures on the subject land necessary for agricultural production or a commercial equine activity.
<Section 2 of Act 2019, July 1, P.L. 245, No. 33, provides that the amendment of 3 P.S. § 914.1(c)(6)(iv) by that Act shall apply retroactively to Dec. 14, 1988.>
(iv) Construction and use of structures on the subject land for the purpose of a residence for the landowner, an immediate family member or an employee: Provided, That only one such structure may be constructed on no more than two acres of the subject land during the term of the agricultural conservation easement: and Provided further, That the owner of the land subject to the agricultural conservation easement may relinquish and extinguish the right of construction and use of structures conferred by this clause by recording, in the office for the recording of deeds in the county in which the land subject to the agricultural conservation easement is located, an affidavit evidencing the intent to relinquish and extinguish which includes a reference to the original deed of easement.
(v) Customary part-time or off-season minor or rural enterprises and activities which are provided for in the county Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Program approved by the State board under subsection (d).
(vi) Commercial equine activity on the subject land.
(7) Land subject to an agricultural conservation easement shall not be subdivided for any purpose which may harm the economic viability of the farmland for agricultural production. Land may be subdivided prior to the granting of an agricultural conservation easement, provided that subdividing will not harm the economic viability for agricultural production of the land subject to the easement.
(8) Nothing in this act shall prohibit a member of the State board or county board or his or her family from selling a conservation easement under this program, provided that all decisions made regarding easement purchases be subject to the provisions of section 3(j) of the act of October 4, 1978 (P.L. 883, No. 170),7 referred to as the Public Official and Employee Ethics Law.
(d) Program approval.--
(1) The standards, criteria and requirements established by the State board for State board approval of county programs for purchasing agricultural conservation easements shall include, but not be limited to, the extent to which the county programs consider and address the following:
(i) The quality of the farmlands subject to the proposed easements, including soil classification and soil productivity ratings. Farmland considered should include soils which do not have the highest soil classifications and soil productivity ratings but which are conducive to producing crops unique to the area.
(ii) The likelihood that the farmlands would be converted to nonagricultural use unless subject to an agricultural conservation easement. Areas in the county devoted primarily to agricultural use where development is occurring or is likely to occur in the next 20 years should be identified. For purposes of considering the likelihood of conversion, the existence of a zoning classification of the land shall not be relevant, but the market for nonfarm use or development of farmlands shall be relevant.
(ii.1) Proximity of the farmlands subject to proposed easements to other agricultural parcels in the county which are subject to agricultural conservation easements.
(iii) The stewardship of the land and use of conservation practices and best land management practices, including, but not limited to, soil erosion and sedimentation control as required by the act of June 22, 1937 (P.L. 1987, No. 394),8 known as “The Clean Streams Law,” and nutrient and odor management as may be required by 3 Pa.C.S. Ch. 5 (relating to nutrient and odor management). A conservation plan shall only be required to be updated when a change in land management practice takes place or when a violation of “The Clean Streams Law” occurs.
(iv) Fair, equitable, objective and nondiscriminatory procedures for determining purchase priorities.
(v)(I) Provisions requiring a farmland tract to be contiguous acreage of at least 50 acres in size unless the tract is at least ten acres in size and is either utilized for a crop unique to the area or is contiguous to property which has a perpetual conservation easement in place held by a “qualified organization” as defined in section 170(h)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (Public Law 99-514, 26 U.S.C. § 170(h)(3)).
(II) A county may require a farmland tract to be contiguous acreage of at least 35 acres in size unless the tract is at least ten acres in size and is either utilized for a crop unique to the area or is contiguous to a property which has a perpetual conservation easement in place held by a “qualified conservation organization” as defined in section 170(h)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986. If a county implements the provisions of this subclause, State funds used for the purchase of an agricultural conservation easement less than 50 acres in size may include costs incidental to the purchase and shall not exceed 50% of the purchase price per acre, unless it is at least ten acres in size and is either utilized for a crop unique to the area or is contiguous to a property which has a perpetual conservation easement in place held by a “qualified conservation organization” as defined in section 170(h)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986. A county program shall require a minimum weighted value of 20% for prioritizing applications for agricultural conservation easement purchase when implementing the provisions of paragraph (ii.1).
(2) The State board shall act on a county's program for purchasing agricultural conservation easements within 60 days of its receipt, and shall notify immediately the county in writing of approval or disapproval of its program in accordance with the criteria set forth in this subsection. Failure of the State board to act on the submission of a county program under this provision within 60 days of its receipt shall be deemed to constitute approval of the county program by the State board.
(e) Easement purchase.--
(1) The State board may reject the recommendation made by a county for purchase of an agricultural conservation easement whenever:
(i) The recommendation does not comply with a county program certified and approved by the State board for purchasing agricultural conservation easements.
(ii) Clear title cannot be conveyed.
(iii) The farmland which would be subject to the agricultural conservation easement is either not located within a duly established agricultural security area of 500 or more acres established or recognized under this act or not in compliance with the criteria set forth in subsection (b)(2)(i).
(iv) The allocation of a county established pursuant to subsection (h) is exhausted or is insufficient to pay the purchase price.
(v) Compensation is not provided to owners of surface-mineable coal disturbed or affected by the creation of such easement.
(2) The State board shall act to approve, disapprove or table the recommendation by a county for purchase of an agricultural conservation easement within 60 days of its receipt unless the following conditions delay such action:
(i) The occurrence of a catastrophic event which precludes the convening of the State board. Any natural disaster, including, but not limited to, fire, flood, excessive wind, snow or earthquake shall constitute a catastrophic event.
(ii) The issue of a subdivision causes further questions by the State board.
(iii) Legal actions or court decisions are pending which would affect the recommendation in question.
(iv) The State board passes a resolution directing that an independent hearing examiner conduct an administrative hearing on any issue relating to the recommendation submitted by the county. In such an occurrence, the 60-day period shall be extended to 120 days.
The 60-day period shall be extended until all issues set forth in this paragraph are resolved to the satisfaction of the State board, whereby the State board shall act at the next scheduled meeting on the recommendation of the county board. Decisions delayed due to catastrophic events shall be determined in as reasonable an amount of time as possible.
(3) If the State board disapproves the recommendation by a county for purchase of an agricultural conservation easement, the county shall be given written notice of the disapproval within ten days of the decision of the State board. The written notice shall state the reason for the State board's disapproval of the recommendation.
(4) A decision of the State board issued under the authority of this subsection shall be an adjudication subject to the provisions of 2 Pa.C.S. (relating to administrative law and procedure).
(5) Failure of the State board to act on a recommendation by a county for purchase of an agricultural conservation easement within 60 days of its receipt shall be deemed to constitute approval by the State board unless one or more of the conditions under paragraph (2) exist.
(f) Valuation.--The State board or the county board, as the case may be, shall select and retain an independent State-certified general real estate appraiser to determine market value and farmland value. If the seller disagrees with the appraisal made by the State or county board's appraiser, the seller shall have the right to select and retain a separate independent State-certified general real estate appraiser within 30 days of receipt of the appraisal of the State or county board's appraiser to determine market value and farmland value. The State board or the county board shall establish the agricultural value and the nonagricultural value of the property subject to the agricultural conservation easement. The State board may provide for a periodic review by a State-certified general real estate appraiser of appraisals submitted by counties in order to assure that the appraisals were performed in accordance with the standards of appraisal practice.
(1) The agricultural value shall equal the sum of:
(i) the farmland value determined by the seller's appraiser; and
(ii) one-half of the difference between the farmland value determined by the State or county board's appraiser and the farmland value determined by the seller's appraiser if the farmland value determined by the State or county board's appraiser exceeds the farmland value determined by the seller's appraiser.
(2) The nonagricultural value shall equal the sum of:
(i) the market value determined by the State or county board's appraiser; and
(ii) one-half of the difference between the market value determined by the seller's appraiser and the market value determined by the State or county board's appraiser, if the market value determined by the seller's appraiser exceeds the market value determined by the State or county board's appraiser.
(3) The entire acreage of the farmland shall be included in the determination of the value of an agricultural conservation easement, less the value of any acreage which was subdivided prior to the granting of such easement. The appraiser shall take into account the potential increase in the value of the subdivided acreage because of the placement of the easement on the remaining farmland.
(g) Purchase price.--The price paid for purchase of an agricultural conservation easement in perpetuity shall not exceed the difference between the nonagricultural value and the agricultural value determined pursuant to subsection (f) at the time of purchase, unless the difference is less than the State or county boards' original appraised value in which case the State or county boards' original easement value may be offered. The purchase price may be paid in a lump sum, in installments over a period of years, or in any other lawful manner of payment. If payment is to be made in installments or another deferred method, the person selling the easement may receive, in addition to the selling price, interest in an amount or at a rate set forth in the agreement of purchase, and final payment of all State money shall be made within, and no later than, five years from the date the agricultural conservation easement purchase agreement was fully executed. The county may provide for payments on an installment or other deferred basis and for interest payments by investing its allocation of State money for purchases approved by the State board under subsection (h)(11) in securities deposited into an irrevocable escrow account or in another manner provided by law.
(h) Allocation of State moneys.--By March 1 of each year, the State board shall make an annual allocation among counties, except counties of the first class, for the purchase of agricultural conservation easements.
(1) As used in this subsection, the following words and phrases shall have the meanings given to them in this paragraph unless the context clearly indicates otherwise:
(i) “Adjusted weighted transfer tax revenues.” An amount equal to the weighted transfer tax revenues of a county divided by the sum of the weighted transfer tax revenues of all counties except counties of the first class.
(ii) “Annual agricultural production.” The total dollar volume of sales of livestock, crops and agricultural products according to the most recent Annual Crop and Livestock Summary published by the Pennsylvania Agricultural Statistics Service.
(iii) “Annual easement purchase threshold.” An amount annually determined by the State board which equals at least $10,000,000.
(iv) “Average realty transfer tax revenues.” The total annual realty transfer tax revenues collected in all counties, except counties of the first class, divided by 66.
(v) “Realty transfer tax revenues.” The tax imposed and collected under section 1102-C of the act of March 4, 1971 (P.L. 6, No. 2),9 known as the “Tax Reform Code of 1971.”
(vi) “Weighted transfer tax revenues.” An amount equal to the total annual realty transfer tax revenues collected in a county divided by the sum of the total annual realty transfer tax revenues collected in all counties except counties of the first class which does not exceed three times the average realty transfer tax revenues.
(2) An annual allocation shall be made to each county, except counties of the first class, for the purchase of agricultural conservation easements by the Commonwealth at the beginning of the county fiscal year which equals 50% of the annual easement purchase threshold multiplied by the adjusted weighted transfer tax revenues of the county for the preceding calendar year.
(3) If the aggregate annual allocation under this paragraph to all counties, except counties of the first class, does not exceed 50% of the annual easement purchase threshold, an additional annual allocation from 50% of the annual easement purchase threshold shall be made to a county, except a county of the first class, at the beginning of the county fiscal year for the joint purchase of agricultural conservation easements by the Commonwealth and a county. The additional annual allocation under this paragraph shall equal the sum of:
(i) The annual appropriation of local moneys by a county for the purchase of agricultural conservation easements which does not exceed the average annual allocation under paragraph (2) multiplied by four.
(ii) The annual appropriation of local moneys by a county for the purchase of agricultural conservation easements which does not exceed the average annual allocation under paragraph (2) multiplied by four, if the county has an annual agricultural production which equals at least 2% of the total annual agricultural production of the Commonwealth for the same year.
(4) If the aggregate annual allocation under paragraph (3) to all counties, except counties of the first class, would exceed 50% of the annual easement purchase threshold, paragraph (3) shall not apply, and an additional annual allocation shall be made under this paragraph at the beginning of the county fiscal year for the joint purchase of agricultural conservation easements by the Commonwealth and a county, except a county of the first class. The additional annual allocation to a county under this paragraph shall equal 50% of the annual easement purchase threshold multiplied by a percentage equal to the annual appropriation of local moneys appropriated by the county for the purchase of agricultural conservation easements divided by the aggregate of local moneys appropriated by all counties, except counties of the first class, for the purchase of agricultural conservation easements and in all cases shall not exceed the average annual allocation under paragraph (2) multiplied by four.
(5) An additional annual allocation shall be made to a county, except a county of the first class, from the amount by which 50% of the annual easement purchase threshold exceeds the total allocations made under paragraph (3) or (4), as the case may be, as follows:
(i) An additional annual allocation shall be made for the joint purchase of agricultural conservation easements by the Commonwealth and a county which equals six-tenths of the amount by which 50% of the annual easement purchase threshold exceeds the total allocations made under paragraph (3) or (4), as the case may be, multiplied by a percentage equal to the annual appropriation of local moneys appropriated by the county for the purchase of agricultural conservation easements divided by the aggregate of local moneys appropriated by all counties, except counties of the first class, for the purchase of agricultural conservation easements.
(ii) An additional annual allocation shall be made for the purchase of agricultural conservation easements by the Commonwealth which equals four-tenths of the amount by which 50% of the annual easement purchase threshold exceeds the total allocations made under paragraph (3) or (4), as the case may be, multiplied by the adjusted weighted transfer tax revenues of the county for the preceding calendar year.
(6) The allocation of a county shall be adjusted for purchases of agricultural conservation easements made with moneys from the county's allocation, for all costs, except administrative costs, incurred by the Commonwealth or a county incident to the purchase of agricultural conservation easements and for the costs of reimbursing nonprofit land conservation organizations for expenses incurred in acquiring and transferring agricultural conservation easements to the Commonwealth or county. No purchase of an agricultural conservation easement shall be made with State moneys allocated to a county unless the amount of the purchase price is equal to or less than the adjusted allocation or the county pays the portion of the purchase price which represents the difference between the purchase price and the adjusted allocation.
(7), (8) Deleted.
(8.1) Beginning with the annual allocation under paragraphs (2), (3), (4) and (5) made by March 1, 1995, and for each annual allocation thereafter, money allocated to counties which are not eligible counties shall be immediately reallocated to eligible counties. Fifty percent of the money available for reallocation under this paragraph shall be reallocated to eligible counties on the basis of the annual agricultural production in each eligible county as a percentage of the total annual agricultural production in all those eligible counties. Twenty-five percent of the money available for reallocation under this paragraph shall be reallocated to eligible counties on the basis of the realty transfer tax revenues for the last fiscal year in each of the eligible counties as a percentage of the total realty transfer tax revenues for the last fiscal year in all those eligible counties. Twenty-five percent of the money available for reallocation under this paragraph shall be reallocated to eligible counties on the basis of the local moneys appropriated by eligible counties for the purchase of agricultural conservation easements for the current county fiscal year in each of the eligible counties as a percentage of the total of local moneys appropriated for the purchase of agricultural conservation easements for the current county fiscal year in all those eligible counties.
(8.2) The total annual allocation made to an eligible county by March 1 of the county's fiscal year for the purchase of agricultural conservation easements and the total annual reallocation made to an eligible county under paragraph (8.1) may be spent over a period of two consecutive county fiscal years. Money allocated or reallocated to a county under this subsection which has not been expended or encumbered by such county at the conclusion of the second county fiscal year shall be restored to the fund. Such money shall not be restored to the fund if by December 31 of the second fiscal year the department has received an agreement executed by the landowner and the county to purchase a specific agricultural conservation easement as part of the county board's recommendation for purchase.
(9) The allocation made to a county under this subsection shall be used for the purchase of agricultural conservation easements in perpetuity.
(10)(i) Notwithstanding any other provision of this subsection or any provision of regulations promulgated pursuant to this act, the department shall not reallocate funds which were allocated prior to January 1, 1994, if, by December 31, 1993, the department has received an agreement signed by the landowner and the county board to purchase a specific agricultural conservation easement as part of the county board's recommendation for purchase.
(ii) Nothing in this paragraph shall affect any reallocation made prior to the effective date of this paragraph.
(11) Whenever the State board approves the recommendation made by a county for purchase of an agricultural conservation easement on an installment or other deferred basis and final payment is to be made more than five years from the date the agricultural conservation easement purchase agreement is fully executed, the moneys allocated to the county for the purchase of such easement, exclusive of interest, shall be transferred to the county and may be invested by the county in the manner provided by law. Transfer of the moneys to the county shall relieve the Commonwealth of any obligation to pay or assure the payment of the purchase price and interest.
(i) Subdivision of land after easement purchase.--
(1) Each county program shall specify the conditions under which the subdivision of land subject to an agricultural conservation easement may be permitted. In no case, however, shall a county program permit a subdivision which will:
(i) harm the economic viability of the farmland for agricultural production; or
<Section 2 of Act 2019, July 1, P.L. 245, No. 33, provides that the amendment of 3 P.S. § 914.1(i)(1)(ii) by that Act shall apply retroactively to Dec. 14, 1988.>
(ii) convert land which has been devoted primarily to agricultural use to another primary use, except that a county program shall permit one subdivision for the purpose of a residence for the landowner, an immediate family member or an employee, unless the right to the residence has been relinquished and extinguished in accordance with subsection (c)(6)(iv).
(2) The county board may agree to permit a parcel of land subject to an agricultural conservation easement to be subdivided after the granting of such easement as follows:
(i) The landowner of record may submit an application, in such form and manner as the county board may prescribe, to the county board requesting that a parcel of the land subject to an easement be subdivided. Upon receipt of the application, the county board shall cause to be forwarded written notification thereof to the county zoning office, county planning office and county farmland preservation office, herein referred to as the reviewing agencies. Each reviewing agency shall have 60 days from receipt of such notification to review, comment and make recommendations on the proposed application to the county board.
(ii) After reviewing the application and the comments and recommendations submitted by the reviewing agencies, the county board shall approve or reject the application to subdivide within 120 days after the date of its filing unless the time is extended by mutual agreement of the landowner and reviewing agencies.
(iii) If the application to subdivide land is approved by the county board, a copy of the application, along with the comments and recommendations of the reviewing agencies, shall be forwarded to the State board for review and approval or disapproval. When reviewing an application to subdivide land subject to an agricultural conservation easement, the State board shall consider only whether the application complies with the conditions under which subdivisions are permitted by the approved county program. The State board shall notify the county board of its decision regarding the application.
(iv) If the application to subdivide is rejected by the county board, the application shall be returned to the landowner with a written statement of the reasons for such rejection. Within 30 days after the receipt of the statement of rejection, the landowner may appeal the rejection in accordance with 2 Pa.C.S. Ch. 5 Subch. B (relating to practice and procedure of local agencies) and Ch. 7 Subch. B (relating to judicial review of local agency action).
(j) Change of ownership.--
(1) Whenever interest in land subject to an agricultural conservation easement is conveyed or transferred to another person, the deed conveying or transferring such land shall recite in verbatim the language of the easement as set forth in the deed executed in connection with the purchase of the agricultural conservation easement.
(2) The person conveying or transferring land subject to an agricultural conservation easement shall within 30 days of change in ownership notify the county board and the department of the name and address of the person to whom the subject land was conveyed or transferred and the price per acre or portion thereof received by the landowner from such person.
(3) Notwithstanding any other provisions of law to the contrary, the restrictions set forth in a deed executed in connection with the purchase of an agricultural conservation easement shall be binding on any person to whom subsequent ownership of the land subject to the easement is conveyed or transferred.
(k) Provisions for agricultural conservation easements.--Any land subject to an agricultural conservation easement under this act shall continue to be subject to the provisions of sections 11, 12 and 1310 regardless of any future modification or termination of the agricultural security area under section 9.11

Credits

1981, June 30, P.L. 128, No. 43, § 14.1, added 1988, Dec. 14, P.L. 1202, No. 149, § 3, effective in 60 days. Amended 1990, June 22, P.L. 242, No. 57, § 2, imd. effective; 1992, April 13, P.L. 100, No. 23, § 4, imd. effective; 1993, Dec. 17, P.L. 522, No. 75, § 1, imd. effective; 1994, Nov. 23, P.L. 621, No. 96, § 2; 1994, Nov. 23, P.L. 648, No. 100, § 5, effective Jan. 1, 1995; 1996, Oct. 16, P.L. 703, No. 121, § 2, effective in 60 days; 1998, Dec. 21, P.L. 1056, No. 138, § 2, effective in 60 days; 2001, May 30, P.L. 103, No. 14, § 3, effective in 30 days; 2005, Nov. 1, P.L. 323, No. 61, § 3, effective in 60 days [Jan. 3, 2006]; 2006, May 15, P.L. 190, No. 46, § 4, imd. effective; 2011, July 7, P.L. 247, No. 44, § 2; 2013, June 24, P.L. 60, No. 19, § 1, imd. effective; 2019, July 1, P.L. 245, No. 33, § 1, effective in 60 days [Aug. 30, 2019], retroactive to Dec. 14, 1988.

Footnotes

71 P.S. § 732-101 et seq.
71 P.S. § 745.1 et seq.
3 P.S. § 908.
72 P.S. § 5490.8.
53 P.S. § 6780-1 et seq. (repealed); see now, 53 Pa.C.S.A. § 8001 et seq.
53 P.S. § 6780-252(b) or (c) (repealed); see now, 53 Pa.C.S.A. § 8142.
65 P.S. § 403(j) (repealed); see now, 65 Pa.C.S.A. § 1103.
35 P.S. § 691.1 et seq.
72 P.S. § 8102-C.
3 P.S. §§ 911, 912 and 913.
3 P.S. § 909.
3 P.S. § 914.1, PA ST 3 P.S. § 914.1
Current through 2022 Regular Session Act 40. Some statute sections may be more current, see credits for details.
End of Document