Relates to the memberships of country agriculture and farmland protection boards; authorization to hold conservation easements and funding for agricultural nonpoint source abatement and control projects.
Ayes (62): Adams, Addabbo, Alesi, Avella, Ball, Bonacic, Breslin, Carlucci, DeFrancisco, Diaz, Dilan, Duane, Espaillat, Farley, Flanagan, Fuschillo, Gallivan, Gianaris, Golden, Griffo, Grisanti, Hannon, Hassell-Thomps, Huntley, Johnson, Kennedy, Klein, Krueger, Kruger, Lanza, Larkin, LaValle, Libous, Little, Marcellino, Martins, Maziarz, McDonald, Montgomery, Nozzolio, O'Mara, Oppenheimer, Parker, Peralta, Perkins, Ranzenhofer, Ritchie, Rivera, Robach, Saland, Sampson, Savino, Serrano, Seward, Skelos, Smith, Squadron, Stavisky, Stewart-Cousin, Valesky, Young, Zeldin
TITLE OF BILL:
An act to amend the agriculture and markets law, the environmental conservation law and the soil and water conservation districts law, in relation to the membership of county agricultural and farmland protection boards, authorization to hold conservation easements, and funding agricultural nonpoint source abatement and control projects
PURPOSE OF THE BILL:
The purpose of this bill is to streamline and enhance the operations of county agricultural and farmland protection boards and soil and water districts by: (1) providing that the chairperson of a county soil and water conservation district may designate an employee of the district to serve on a county agricultural and farmland protection board in lieu of the chairperson; (2) authorizing county soil and water conservation districts (Districts) to hold conservation easements; and (3) clarifying the match requirements for the Agricultural Nonpoint Source Abatement and Control Program.
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS:
Section 1 of the bill amends Agriculture and Markets Law (AML) §302 (1) to authorize the chairperson of a county soil and water conservation district to designate an employee of the district to serve on an AFPB in lieu of the chairperson.
Section 2 of the bill amends Environmental Conservation Law (ECL) §49-0303(3) to include a county soil and water conservation district in the definition of a "public body" for purposes of holding conservation easements.
Section 3 of the bill adds a new subdivision 4-a to the Soil and Water Conservation Districts Law (SWCDL) §9 to provide Districts with authority to acquire, hold, maintain, administer and improve conservation easements; receive income from such activity and expend it in carrying out the purposes and provisions of the SWCDL; and extinguish conservation easements.
Section 4 of the bill amends SWCDL § 11-b (5) to clarify that state assistance payments for nonpoint source projects cannot exceed 87.5 percent.
AML §302(1) (a) authorizes a county legislative body to establish a county agricultural and farmland protection board and provides the conditions for membership.
ECL §49-0303(3) defines a "public body" for purposes of holding conservation easements to mean municipal corporations; the Palisades Interstate Park Commission and the Central Pine Barrens Joint Policy and Planning Commission.
SWCDL §9 sets forth the powers of soil and water conservation districts and directors
SWCDL §11-b establishes a matching grant program to fund agricultural non-point source abatement and control projects and sets forth project funding criteria
SWCDL § 11-b (5) requires that state assistance payments not exceed 90% of eligible costs for any specified non-point source control project.
PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY:
This is a new proposal.
STATEMENT IN SUPPORT:
AML §302 authorizes county legislative bodies to establish county agricultural and farmland protection boards (AFPBs) consisting of eleven members. An AFPB has a broad range of responsibilities as it advises the county legislative body in relation to the proposed establishment, modification, continuation or termination of any agricultural district; renders expert advice relating to the nature of farming and farm resources; reviews notices of intent; approves county agricultural and farmland protection plans; provides recommendations as to the effect and reasonableness of proposed actions involving the advance of public funds or acquisitions of farmland in agricultural districts by governmental entities; and may request that the Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets review any state agency rule or regulation which the AFPB identifies as affecting agricultural activities within an existing or proposed agricultural district. Counties are struggling with their ability to obtain a quorum at meetings, however. Several chairpersons of county soil and water conservation district (SWCD) boards of directors are finding it difficult to attend AFPB meetings. County SWCD staff is knowledgeable of the farm family, the farm enterprise and the productivity of the soils within the county and can provide necessary information and support to AFPBs as they carry out their responsibilities. The proposed amendments will facilitate greater participation on these local boards.
Soil and Water Conservation Districts are charged in statute with the preservation of soil and water resources, including flood prevention, erosion control, water quality, water conservation, recreational use planning and preservation of natural resources. Districts presently have statutory authority to own or obtain title to real property through various means to advance these important provisions of the Soil and Water Conservation Districts Law. Efforts to protect natural resources for the public benefit can be greatly enhanced by adopting legislation that gives the Districts the capacity to hold conservation easements. These easements often include some type of conservation plan and Districts are well-suited to monitor and ensure compliance with the easement and plan due to their experience in working with public and private landowners. The ability to hold conservation easements would be a valuable tool in advancing the work of Districts while providing a valuable option to government entities
and private landowners seeking experienced oversight of important land resources.
The proposal also makes a necessary technical change to the SWCDL. The SWCDL currently provides that state assistance payments for agricultural nonpoint source abatement and control projects cannot exceed 90 percent of eligible costs. However, since the State match can only be increased from the current statutory maximum of 75 percent in equal proportion to the amount contributed by the agricultural landowner or operator, then mathematically, the maximum state contribution is capped at 87.5 percent, rather than the 90 percent currently referenced in the statute.
This bill would not impose a mandate on a county, city, town, village, school district or special district.
The amendments take effect upon enactment.
STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 4718--A 2011-2012 Regular Sessions IN SENATE April 15, 2011 ___________Introduced by Sens. RITCHIE, SEWARD -- (at request of the Department of Agriculture and Markets) -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Agriculture -- committee discharged, bill amended, ordered reprinted as amended and recommitted to said committee AN ACT to amend the agriculture and markets law, the environmental conservation law and the soil and water conservation districts law, in relation to the membership of county agricultural and farmland protection boards, authorization to hold conservation easements, and funding agricultural nonpoint source abatement and control projects THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM- BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. Paragraph (a) of subdivision 1 of section 302 of the agri- culture and markets law, as amended by chapter 235 of the laws of 1995, is amended to read as follows: (a) A county legislative body may establish a county agricultural and farmland protection board which shall consist of eleven members, at least four of whom shall be active farmers. At least one member of such board shall represent agribusiness and one member may represent an organization dedicated to agricultural land preservation. These six members of the board shall reside within the county which the respective board serves. The members of the board shall also include the chair- person of the county soil and water conservation district's board of directors OR AN EMPLOYEE OF THE COUNTY SOIL AND WATER CONSERVATION DISTRICT DESIGNATED BY THE CHAIRPERSON, a member of the county legisla- tive body, a county cooperative extension agent, the county planning director and the county director of real property tax services. The chairperson shall be chosen by majority vote. Such board shall be estab- lished in the event no such board exists at the time of receipt by the county legislative body of a petition for the creation or review of an agricultural district pursuant to section three hundred three of thisEXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted. LBD09681-03-1 S. 4718--A 2
article, or at the time of receipt by the county of a notice of intent filing pursuant to subdivision four of section three hundred five of this article. The members of such board shall be appointed by the chair- person of the county legislative body, who shall solicit nominations from farm membership organizations except for the chairperson of the county soil and water conservation district's board of directors OR HIS OR HER DESIGNEE, the county planning director and director of real prop- erty tax services, who shall serve ex officio. The members shall serve without salary, but the county legislative body may entitle each such member to reimbursement for actual and necessary expenses incurred in the performance of official duties. S 2. Subdivision 3 of section 49-0303 of the environmental conserva- tion law, as amended by chapter 45 of the laws of 1997, is amended to read as follows: 3. "Public body" means the state or a municipal corporation as that term is defined in section two of the general municipal law. Such term shall further include the Palisades interstate park commission
[and]; the Central Pine Barrens joint planning and policy commission; AND A SOIL AND WATER CONSERVATION DISTRICT AS THAT TERM IS DEFINED IN SECTION THREE OF THE SOIL AND WATER CONSERVATION DISTRICTS LAW. S 3. Section 9 of the soil and water conservation districts law is amended by adding a new subdivision 4-a to read as follows: (4-A) TO ACQUIRE, BY PURCHASE, EXCHANGE, GIFT, BEQUEST, DEVISE, OR OTHERWISE, A CONSERVATION EASEMENT AS DEFINED IN SECTION 49-0303 OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION LAW; TO HOLD, MAINTAIN, ADMINISTER, AND IMPROVE, IN COMPLIANCE WITH ANY SUCH EASEMENT AND TITLE THREE OF ARTICLE FORTY-NINE OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION LAW, ANY CONSERVATION EASE- MENTS ACQUIRED; TO ENFORCE ANY OF THE TERMS OF A CONSERVATION EASEMENT, EITHER AS A HOLDER OF AN ACQUIRED EASEMENT OR UNDER A THIRD PARTY ENFORCEMENT RIGHT, AS DEFINED IN SECTION 49-0303 OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION LAW, GRANTED TO THE DISTRICT IN A CONSERVATION EASEMENT; TO RECEIVE ANY INCOME FROM THE HOLDING, MAINTENANCE, ADMINISTRATION, IMPROVEMENT OR ENFORCEMENT OF CONSERVATION EASEMENTS AS AUTHORIZED IN THIS SUBDIVISION AND TO EXPEND SUCH INCOME IN CARRYING OUT THE PURPOSES AND PROVISIONS OF THIS CHAPTER; AND TO EXTINGUISH ANY SUCH CONSERVATION EASEMENTS IN COMPLIANCE WITH SUCH EASEMENT AND TITLE THREE OF ARTICLE FORTY-NINE OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION LAW, IN FURTHERANCE OF THE PURPOSES AND PROVISIONS OF THIS CHAPTER. S 4. Subdivision 5 of section 11-b of the soil and water conservation districts law, as amended by chapter 413 of the laws of 1996, is amended to read as follows: 5. State assistance payments pursuant to this section shall be up to a maximum of seventy-five percent of the eligible costs, as determined pursuant to subdivision four of section 17-1409 of the environmental conservation law, for any specified project. Such maximum shall be increased by a percentage equal to the percentage of the total eligible costs for such specified projects that are contributed by the owner or operator of agricultural land upon which such specified project is being conducted, provided, however, that in no event shall the total of such state assistance payments exceed [ninety]EIGHTY-SEVEN AND ONE-HALF percent of such eligible costs for any specified project. S 5. This act shall take effect immediately.