The latest round of approvals provides a joint state and countyinvestment totaling $15.1 million, which will preserve 5,391 acresin 23 counties. The full $74.2-million investment is expected topreserve 37,000 acres on more than 300 farms.

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Since its inception in 1988, the program has preserved 382,845acres on 3,450 farms. "To celebrate the program's 20th anniversary,we anticipate reaching the 3,500-farm and 400,000-acre milestonethis year," says Dennis Wolff, agriculture secretary, in astatement. Currently 57 of the state's 67 counties participate inthe program.

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It works though an agricultural conservation easement purchaseprogram, developed to slow the loss of farmland to non-agriculturaluses. It enables the state, county and local governments topurchase conservation easements, also called development rights,from owners of qualified farmland. According to Gov. Ed Rendell,"agriculture is the leading economic enterprise in Pennsylvania,contributing $45 billion annually to the state's economy."

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