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HARRISBURG, PA-The Pennsylvania Farmland Preservation Board has approved $74.2 million in state and county funds to preserve farmland across the commonwealth. The investment consists of $33 million in state funds and $41.2 million in county matching funds to protect farmland from development and non-agricultural uses.

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

Since its inception in 1988, the program has preserved 382,845 acres on 3,450 farms. “To celebrate the program’s 20th anniversary, we anticipate reaching the 3,500-farm and 400,000-acre milestone this year,” says Dennis Wolff, agriculture secretary, in a statement. Currently 57 of the state’s 67 counties participate in the program.

It works though an agricultural conservation easement purchase program, developed to slow the loss of farmland to non-agricultural uses. It enables the state, county and local governments to purchase 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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