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Agricultural District Program Frequently Asked Questions

What is an agricultural district?

A geographic area which consists predominantly of viable agricultural land. Agricultural operations within the district are the priority land use and afforded benefits and protections to promote the continuation of farming and the preservation of agricultural land. In practice, districts may include land that is actively farmed, idle, forested, as well as residential and commercial.

What is agricultural district review?

Districts are reviewed every 8 years. After receiving the County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board report and recommendations and following a public hearing, the Erie County Legislature determines whether the district shall be continued, terminated or modified. During the review process, land may be added or removed from the district.

Counties are also required to designate an annual 30-day period when landowners my petition the County for inclusion of viable agricultural lands in an existing agricultural district. In Erie County, the annual open enrollment period is held from September 1st to September 30th.

Does the agricultural district impact taxes?

No. The agricultural districts do not affect your taxes. Agricultural lands may qualify for a tax break through the agricultural assessments program. Though agricultural assessments and agricultural districts are governed by the same law, the process is completely independent. Your taxes are based on the current land use and are determined by your assessor independent of the agricultural district.

Am I restricted from doing certain things on my land?

No. The agricultural district does not put any restrictions on what you can do to the land. They do not prevent you from developing your land into residential or commercial uses in the future. Their main goal is to provide protections for current and potential agricultural lands and to encourage agriculture to continue. You may build new structures on the land in the agricultural district, following the same process as lands outside of the agricultural district.

If my land is in an agricultural district, do I automatically receive its benefits?

No. Only land considered by New York State to be a “Farm Operation” (as defined by NYS Agricultural Districts Law (ADL) below) receives the benefits.

Farm operation” means the land and on-farm buildings, equipment, manure processing and handling facilities, and practices which contribute to the production, preparation and marketing of crops, livestock and livestock products as a commercial enterprise, including a “commercial horse boarding operation” as defined in subdivision thirteen of this section, a “timber operation” as defined in subdivision fourteen of this section, “compost, mulch or other biomass crops” as defined in subdivision sixteen of this section and “commercial equine operation” as defined by subdivision seventeen of this section. Such farm operation may consist of one or more parcels of owned or rented land, which parcels may be contiguous or noncontiguous to each other.

How do I find out if my property is in an agricultural district?

To determine if your property is in an agricultural district, you may visit the Erie County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Mapping Inventory and search by address or SBL number. Turn on the agricultural district layer to see the extent of the districts around your property.

Do agricultural districts consist entirely of farmland?

Districts must contain predominantly of viable agricultural land. This has been interpreted as more than 50% of land in farms; however most districts have a higher percentage. The benefits and protections under the ADL, however, only apply to farm operations and land used in agricultural production.

Does an agricultural district preserve farmland?

Agricultural districts do not preserve farmland in the sense that the use of land is restricted to only agricultural uses forever. Rather, agricultural districts provide benefits that help make and keep farming as a viable economic activity within the County.

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