Presentation on Our Hudson Valley Farm Affordability Program

Jim Oldham, Executive Director of Equity Trust, will be presenting at The Emerging Research on Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Conference, hosted by Farm Foundation and USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) online November 9-10, 2020.

Jim will present in Session Three: Land Access and Other Barriers to Entry on Monday, November 9, 3:00-5:00 Eastern Time.


Supporting land access and farm succession with resale restrictions: a case study from New York’s Hudson Valley

Between 2014 and 2020, Equity Trust ran a pilot program to introduce innovative farmland protection tools to New York’s Hudson Valley to keep farmland in the hands of working farmers. The Hudson Valley Farm Affordability Program responded to increasing evidence that farmland protected by traditional conservation easements (CEs) often goes out of production due to non-farmer purchases.

The program promoted resale restrictions like the “option to purchase at agricultural value” (OPAV), used in publicly funded agricultural easements in Massachusetts and Vermont, to facilitate farmer-to-farmer land transfers and access for beginning farmers. Working with regional partners, the program developed a “preemptive purchase right” (PPR), modeled on the OPAV and conforming to New York State law, which gives an easement holder the right, at the time of a farm transfer, to buy the land at its agricultural value to prevent sale to a non-farmer and to transfer it to another farmer.

This paper traces the evolution of the PPR from a new concept through its take up by six conservation land trusts and use in CEs funded by both New York State’s Farmland Protection Implementation Grants (FPIG) program and USDA’s Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, to the passage of legislation making PPRs eligible for state funding under the FPIG program. Driven by farmer and land trust demand, the program helped protect thirteen farms covering 1920 acres in seven counties using CEs with a PPR. These resale-restricted farms— dairies, pastured meat operations, diversified vegetable and fruit farms—range in size from 20 to 444 acres. The paper describes how the PPR reduced the as-restricted value of these properties by 12% to 25%, and it details how these resale restrictions facilitated transfers from retiring to beginning farmers, allowed young farmers to purchase leased land, helped older farmers implement succession plans, and reduced farmers’ credit burden.

Author: Jim Oldham, Equity Trust, Inc.