New York State Certified Agricultural Districts
in Jefferson County
New York’s Agricultural Districts Law, Article 25-AA PDF of the NYS Agriculture and Markets Law, was enacted in 1971 to help keep farmland in agricultural production.
There are two processes at the county level for the addition and review of these districts. Each Certified Agricultural District is required by New York State to undergo and Eight-Year Review to determine if the district still consists of predominantly viable agricultural land. There is also an annual individual inclusions process where agricultural land may be added to an existing certified agricultural district. There are three Agricultural Districts in Jefferson County comprising over 200,000 acres. This year, Jefferson County is completing both an annual individual inclusion process and an eight-year review of the North Agricultural District.
The New York State Agricultural Districts Law requires counties to establish an annual 30 day period to allow parcels of predominantly viable agricultural land to be added to existing New York State Certified Agricultural Districts. The Jefferson County Board of Legislators has set June 1st through June 30th of each year for this purpose.
Viable agricultural land is land that is actively farmed as well as inactive and non-farm acreage which is highly suitable for agricultural production. A parcel of land is “predominantly” viable if a minimum of 51% of the parcel meets the above definition.
Certified Agricultural Districts are designed to protect agriculture through a combination of landowner incentives and protections that discourage the conversion of farmland to non-agricultural uses, including:
• providing reduced property tax bills for agricultural lands - property owners must apply annually with their local assessor for an agricultural assessment
• providing the framework to limit unreasonable local regulation on accepted agricultural practices
• providing Right to Farm provisions that protect accepted agricultural practices from private nuisance suits
• modifying state agency administrative regulations and procedures to encourage the continuation of agricultural businesses
• modifying the ability to advance public funds to construct facilities that encourage development
• preventing benefit assessments, special ad valorem levies, or other rates and fees on farmland for the finance of improvements such as water, sewer or nonfarm drainage
• modifying the ability of public agencies to acquire farmland through eminent domain
Certified Agricultural Districts primarily benefit owners of land that is farmed. Being part of a Certified Agricultural District does not:
• directly affect the use of land beyond existing requirements, for example, zoning
• directly reduce or increase tax assessments—agricultural landowners can apply to the local tax assessor for an annual agricultural assessment