Friday, March 08, 2013

NorCo Farmland Preservation Goal - 25%

Before last night's Northampton County Council meeting, Farmland Preservation Administrator Maria Bentzoni told me that my report yesterday was mostly right. A Lehigh County Ag Board member also gently corrected me on a few points. If they were grading me, I think I'd get a B or B-. That's pretty damn good for a bottom-feeding blogger. But I owe it to Maria and the rest of you to try once more to get it right. So let me fill you in on what Bentzoni herself told Council last night.

I just want to warn Maria that if she knocks me down to a C+, I'm suing. Rick Orloski is my lawyer, too, damn it!

1. Bentzoni estimates that there are approximately 900 farms in Northampton County. She'd like to preserve 25% of them. Thus far, the County has preserved 123 farms.

2. Although Northampton County beat Lancaster last year in state money received for farmland preservation, Lancaster still preserved more farmland. Over the last 23 year, the County has preserved over 12,000 acres. We still lag behind Lehigh County, which has preserved 21,000 acres. We're definitely catching up, but Lehigh still has us beat.

3. Northampton County started its farmland preservation program 23 years ago, when Jerry Seyfried was County Executive. He wanted to take advantage of a state bond that was providing matching funds. He and Ross Kahler are responsible for much of its original success. After Jerry left office, Bill Brackbill and Glenn Reibman were focused more on other things. Between 1990 and 2003, 30 farms and approximately 3,000 acres were preserved.

4. The appointment of Maria as a full-time farmland preservation administrator, combined with John Stoffa's half mill tax for open space, were real game changers. In the last ten years, 93 farms were preserved, consisting of 9,392 acres. That's three times as many as in the first ten years. In the words of the Lehigh County expert, Stoffa and Bentzoni both deserve credit. She is "creative" and is "working wonders with the program."

5. An example of this creativity is the Municipal Partnership Program, in which seven townships and the County pool their resources together to get higher matching grants from the state. That's how Northampton County was able to beat Lancaster in funding received in 2012. Thus program was so successful that last year, the County raked in $6.6 million from the state, in the middle of a recession, and was able to preserve all but one of about thirty applications. That just never happens but it happened in Northampton County.

6. Contrary to what I reported yesterday, more than one farm has applied for preservation this year. Bentzoni told council that there were 33 applications, and 20 of them are "qualified". "I was stunned," stated Bentzoni.

7. State funding for farmland preservation is not decreasing. Next year, it will climb from $9 million to $33 million. this is largely due to the heat Governor Corbett had to take over his first two budgets.

8. Contrary to what I would have guessed, one out of every seven jobs in Northampton County is agricultural or agricultural-related.

9. Bentzoni and the Lehigh County Ag Board member believe that now, when the real estate market is depressed, is the best time to buy development rights. This is because there is no development demand for the farms and farmers will take less money to sell their development rights.

10. Preserved farmland is still private land and the public has no automatic access to it for hunting, hiking, etc.

11. Preservation is permanent. But if a preserved farm can no longer be farmed because it is uneconomical or surrounded by so much development that it is logistically impossible to farm it economically, a land owner can ask to buy back the development rights. The county has not obligation to sell.

12. Bentzoni is a farming groupie, a farmie? She ended her presentation with a few photos called "the Faces of Farming." They show a few old guys in ripped T-shirts standing next to tractors and corn cobs and they really get to her.

Now I know there is still hope for me.

48 comments:

Anonymous said...

Once again your selective memory is in play. In the early days there was more to it than Jerry wanting to preserve farms. If truth be told, a fair bit more. Let us see if you will eventually tell the entire story. Your mancrush for Stoffa blew the so called "facts" of your first story out of proportion We know Jerry is one of your mancrushes but there is much more to the story of farmeland preservation. Let's see if you can be more honest.

By yhe way, who's petitions did you circulate?

Anonymous said...

Is that really Stoffa's wife in the first picture?

Bernie O'Hare said...

"By yhe way, who's petitions did you circulate?".

Lamont McClure.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Once again your selective memory is in play."

Yeah, I guess Maria Bentzoni, the LC dude and Jerry are all wrong and an anonymous troll more concerned about who i'm circulating for is right.

Anonymous said...

So you will chose dishonesty. Why are you afraid to admit who you circulated petitions for? Are you afraid? Are they?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Speaking of honesty, why don't you tell me who you are, who you circulated petitions for, and why on earth this matters to anyone except wackos like you?

michael molovinsky said...

farmland preservation is the scam of our era. we are not preserving necessary areas for food production, but paying for the landed gentry's assets and trustfunds. in reality, there is a tremendous surplus of farmland, forcing the federal government to pay set aside subsidizes. farmers are paid NOT to grow, otherwise surplus crops would decimate the crop prices. farm preservation is truly a politically correct joke. the prices paid for the development rights greatly exceed the true market price of the land. 97% of those receiving this money never would have sold their land anyway. i personally know gentlemen farmers who have received these subsidizes, in one case, over a $1million. if the county wants to buy land for open space that's fine, but to pay someone development rights, and allow them to still own the land, is a crime against taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

Farmland Preservation is just stupid. Farmland is extremely detrimental to the ecology. The amount of acreage required to feed a single steer is sinful. Before any of this land was destroyed by farmers, it was forest. The farmland should only be acquired if it is to be returned to its original condition, woods. We overproduce food and poor milk into the ground amid price supports. farmland preservation is immoral and costly.

Anonymous said...

Maria is FANTASTIC.


But give credit where credit is due...who first appointed her to her position?

Anonymous said...

The problem is that they are preserving farms in areas with no development pressure and with generally poor soil. The farmers know this. If their farm has no development pressure and the soil doesn't yield slammer crops, might as well get some cash now from the government. It is well known in the Valley that all the good soil that should have been preserved was in the path of development and has been largely developed. Let the market decide and stop using taxpayer money to buy things that are not really needed.

Anonymous said...

I love the face in hole pics. Can you make Stoffa have dancing eyes next time please?

Anonymous said...

MM IS ABSOLUTELY CORRECT. There is plenty of farmland. Only it's all in Kansas and Nebraska.
And that ranting about farming being anti-enviroment --- the tea baggers on this site will use any argument they can dream up to promote their ideologie.
If the holy market has its way this valley will be covered with tickey-tack housing and strip malls.

Anonymous said...

5:48/6:39
Do you want to try yet one more argument to bash saving farm land? Why not?
Let the market take care of it. Then there won't be a fucking farm in the valley in 60 more years.

Anonymous said...




Another Program!

michael molovinsky said...

@7:38, if you ever flew over pennsylvania you would realize how much farmland there is. but that's not necessary, just drive to harrisburg. for the most part all you pass is farmland, and that's along the highway. drive off an exit, and there's even less density. it's a sweet deal for the landowners, especially when they can buy the development rights back in 20 years, with 2012 dollars.

Anonymous said...

No more programs. The markets rule,
PAVE THE VALLEY!

Anonymous said...

Farmland preservation is immoral. Immoral I say. More warehouses please. Can you give us more warehouses please. The people want warehouses.

Anonymous said...

My vote is for strip malls. There never seems to be enough.

C said...

I mean this in the most respectful way and don't intend to offend anyone. Michael, it is a lot more complicated than that. It sounds as though there are lots of folks who just don't understand the mechanics and benefits of our farmalnd preservation program.
To all of the naysayers, OK, I understand your grievences, but can you suggest an alternate tool to help foster responsible growth while providing the economic benefit that Agriculture does? As far as relying on farmalnd that is not proximal to our urban cores...I strongly disagree with the centralization of our food production. The Soviet Union tried that, and when the Commies met the demise of their political ideology, widespread hunger ensued for years.

Bernie O'Hare said...

MM, I hate when farmland preservation money is used to pay gentleman farmers. I think the money should be used, not just to preserve the farmland, but the farming way of life. I disagree with Bentzoni when she advocates buying from developers who are trying to recoup a loss. We don't exist to bail them out.

But I pretty much disagree with every one of your other points.

michael molovinsky said...

@9:07, i have an aversion to these comment box discussions, so this comment, regardless of any reply, will conclude my dialogue here. it's much less complicated than you imply. the preservation programs do not insure food production. do not confuse corn for jaindl's turkeys with food. when school systems are laying off teachers, it's obscene to be buying development rights on land, which probably would have not been developed anyway.

Anonymous said...

Cut Stoffa a break, he did fufill his promise to LVIP, the biggest destroyer of prime farm;and, to build a new building in their Industrail Park.

YOu watch the smoke, I'll watch the mirrors.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't Mr. Seyfried interested in parks and not farmland? I thought Mr. Kahler had to appeal to county council to include farmland in the plan. Woul;d be interestimg to really research the history.

Anonymous said...

Farmers accept welfare and pour milk into the ground. They are just another victim class.

c said...

Michael, unfortunately it is not that simple. Spend an hour with Maria Bentzoni and if you really listen, the complexity of it may enlighten you. Sorry that you don't wish to engage in calm, rational dialogue. Maybe I could learn something from you. By 2030, 9 billion people are going to be here. Where will our children and grandchildren get clean water, healthy food and a good quality of life if we don't plan well now?

Anonymous said...

The real help in preserving farmland is the housing developments are the reason for the increase in property taxes for the schools because the state subsidy does not cover the increase enrollment. In fact, the developments lower the state's reimbursement because the state formula considers the developments increase wealth to a district and that lowers the subsidy.

Anonymous said...

Too bad so many of you are jealous of success. Try to give some credit where credt is due. You can do it...just try.

Anonymous said...

Stoffa never sold land to an industrial park. Why are you so despicable ? And what if he did ? Jealous ? You are a pitful liar.

Anonymous said...

Farmland preservation and parks came into play in the early
1990's. Did Hartzell build #33? no. But he gets credit for it even though four administrations worked on RT 33. His name is on the bridge. Who cares who does what as long as it gets done. Thank you Gerry, Thank you glenn, thank you John and thank you Bill.

Anonymous said...

The first farm that was preserved under the Preservation Program was the "Gall Farm"..I believe that was in Bushkill township. I also believe that was during the Seyfried Adminisration (if that helps at all). Seyfried was big on parks and I believe Farmland preservation was an outreach of his program. Not 100% sure.

Anonymous said...

"Farmland preservation and parks came into play in the early
1990's. Did Hartzell build #33? no. But he gets credit for it even though four administrations worked on RT 33. His name is on the bridge. Who cares who does what as long as it gets done. Thank you Gerry, Thank you glenn, thank you John and thank you Bill. "



THAT was very well stated.

Anonymous said...

It's not about food production MM. It's about saving a little bit of open space and rural interface in the valley.

Anonymous said...

I guess the issue here should be, what should we have done in Northampton County other than what we are doing in the "preservation" area? We simply could have done nothing as some propose.

Anonymous said...

No one is going to have to move back to New Jersey.
If we just trust the market ( the market is NEVER wrong ) we will have New Jersey right here in a few short years.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I have deleted two comments about the DA's suit today against the exec bc they are off topic and just plain stupid. Stick to the topic. I you must diverge, at least show half a brain.

Anonymous said...

Can we just save a couple hundred acres in Bethelehem Township please?

Anonymous said...

STOFFA-GIFT??? What is that Bernie? Do you know. They're talking about it on that other blog.

Ron Beitler said...

Transferable Development Rights Programs
http://conservationtools.org/guides/show/12

c said...

TDR is a good tool Ron.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Rpn is an expert on this topic.

Anonymous said...

Pave Bethlehem Township. It is long gone. Nothing left to save except for an old house. Save the hinterlands of the County. Keep the greedy developers out. Tell the farmers what they can do with their properties. Is this not America?

Anonymous said...

Did Lamont thank you for circulating his petition?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Yes.

Anonymous said...

Sprawl is so ugly. In a perfect world there would be cities and farms. The part of the Valley between Bethlehem and Easton and west of Allentown is so depressing to me..bland, monotonous,blah...

Bernie O'Hare said...

It was so beautiful at one time. I used to love the drive from Bethlehem to Easton.

Anonymous said...

Pave Bethlehem Township !

Anonymous said...

Rememeber people, Bethlehem Twp. paved Bethewlehm Twp. Townshipo greed created todays Bethleehem Twonship.

Anonymous said...

Pave the park......... go CM Church!