During the June meeting of the Pennsylvania Agricultural Land Preservation Board, an additional 20 farms in 15 counties were added to the state’s nation-leading farmland preservation program – totaling 1,718 acres of additional farmland.

Since the program began in 1988, federal, state, county and local governments have invested nearly $1.3 billion to preserve 508,478 acres on 4,802 farms in 57 counties for future agricultural production.

“Twenty additional farm families have taken the important first step in preserving their farms by safeguarding their land permanently,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “I thank the families for their foresight, as well as the program staff at all levels of government who have worked to protect this land.”

The board preserved farms in 15 counties: Adams, Berks, Bradford, Bucks, Chester, Cumberland, Erie, Greene, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lehigh, Lycoming, Mifflin, Northampton and York.

The Pennsylvania Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Program identifies properties at risk of development to slow the loss of prime farmland to non-agricultural uses. It enables state, county and local governments to purchase conservation easements, also called development rights, from owners of quality farmland.

Governor Tom Wolf’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2015-16 builds on Pennsylvania’s commitment to preserving valuable farmland by approving a $30 million investment through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Fund line item – a $2.5 million, or nine percent, increase over what is available in the current fiscal year.