Mouth That Roars

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself of National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the "MOUTH THAT ROARS" Column in the Sullivan County Post.

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July 9th, 2015

Approve Agricultural Package

Besides tourism – Agriculture has always been a major part of Sullivan County’s landscape.

The Sullivan County Legislature will be voting next week on Agricultural District 4 to consider recommendations of the Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board and Planning Commissioner recommendations.

All the recommendations must be approved.

Every eight years there is a need to review the Agricultural District (AG), Sullivan County has two districts, Ag District #1 and Ag District #4.

At this time the legislature is allowed to include and remove parcels. In order to keep an Ag District there must be at least 51% of the district as viable agricultural land.

For Ag District #4, there was a lot of farmland conversion and it came dangerously close to not meeting the required threshold.

Therefore it was necessary to remove parcels to get the number up to 53%. In order to do this a number of things were done which included:

– Sending notifications to all landowners in the District asking if they wanted to be removed or stay

-Sending notifications to the municipalities asking if they were aware of any conversations to large scale development, etc.

-They also reviewed different property classes that are not compatible to agriculture such as trailer parks, quarrying, mining, electric utilities.

By being in an AG District the owner has the Right to Farm. If you are not in an Ag District, the property owner does not have right to farm protections.

At a June public hearing Forestburgh Councilmember Catherine Barnhart objected to parcels being converted into the AG District by Sullivan County philanthropist Stuart Salenger. Barnhart’s objections must be viewed as being nothing more than being politically motivated and disruptive.

Forestburgh has been part of our agricultural landscape since 1837.

Robert Kaplan, Chairman of Sullivan County’s Agriculture and Farmland Protection Board addressed any concerns in a recent letter to members of the Sullivan County legislators.

Kaplan wrote that he found comments made at the public hearing “offensive to the farmland protection board, every farmer in the county, as well as you as legislators, who have devoted time and County resources to promote and protect agriculture, to have agriculture treated in such a flippant manor as to denigrate its importance to the County and the history of the County.”

According to Kaplan, “Enacted in 1971, New York’s Agricultural Districts Law (ADL) is a very effective tool for maintaining lands in agriculture, and ensuring New York’s position as an outstanding agricultural state. The ADL recognizes that agricultural lands are important and irreplaceable resources, which are in jeopardy of being lost to as a result of increasing costs of agricultural businesses, development pressures and regulatory constraints. Agricultural Districts Law seeks to create economic and regulatory incentives which encourage farmers to continue farming.”

Agricultural Districts may include not just farm fields, but also residential, forested and commercial properties that are part of an agricultural enterprise.

Kaplan points out that “only land considered by the State to be a “Farm Operation” actually receive the benefits of the Agriculture Districts. Therefore, you can be located within an Agricultural District, but not receive 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 and “compost, mulch or other biomass crops” as defined in subdivision sixteen of this section and ”commercial equine operation” as defined in 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.”

The Agriculture and Farmland Protection Board, through the Department of Planning and Environmental Management (DPEM), sent all notifications to municipalities, landowners and Legislators in a timely manner, despite the comment made at the public hearing.

Kaplan notes that a common complaint about land in agricultural districts has to do with taxation. “To make the record clear, all land in agricultural districts is taxed. Farmland enrolled in the agricultural value assessment program is taxed based on its agricultural value, not necessarily the fair market value. The farmer must file every year to receive the agricultural value assessment. All buildings and land under them are taxed at normal levels. Lastly, the agriculture value assessment only applies to Town and County taxes. It does not apply to school taxes.”

As for the Town of Forestburgh, Kaplan notes that the municipality has its own Right to Farm Law. According to the Legislative intent and purpose of the Town of Forestburgh Right to Farm Law, passed on August 3, 2000.”

The Town’s Right to Farm law states that “Farmers, as well as those employed, retained, or otherwise authorized to act on behalf of farmers, may lawfully engage in agricultural practices within this Town at all times and all such locations as are reasonably necessary to conduct the business of agriculture.”

In urging the legislature to approve the recommendations of the Agriculture and Farmland Protection Board, Kaplan wrote that board members “conducted a thorough review of Agricultural District #4. Our decisions are based off precedence, experience, site visits, and most importantly, the NYS Agriculture and Markets law. Therefore, we fully support our recommendation to the County Legislature for the recertification of Ag District #4 and the inclusion of the additional properties.”

Robert Kaplan Letter to Legislature

Info on AG Districts

The Forestburgh concern is a non issue and Council member Catherine Barnhart and her handful of followers know it.

Sullivan County Legislators must do the right thing, and approve all the recommendations.

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself on National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the “MOUTH THAT ROARS” Column in THE SULLIVAN COUNTY POST.

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