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Agricultural Security Area Advisory Council

Agricultural Security Area & Agricultural Security Area Advisory Council (ASAAC)

The Agricultural Security Area program was established in 1981 as a tool for strengthening and protecting agriculture in Pennsylvania. In this program, farm owners can help preserve the viability of Pennsylvania farms by working together to establish such areas. There are multiple benefits to establishing an Agricultural Security Area (ASA): participating farmers are entitled to special consideration from local and state government agencies if a farm is proposed for condemnation, and participating farmers are protected from some "nuisance" challenges, which help to encourage the continued use of farmland for productive agricultural purposes. In addition, the program in an important tool in the Commonwealth's "farmland preservation toolbox." As of 2016, roughly four million acres of land are enrolled in Agricultural Security Areas statewide. 

Agricultural Security Areas promote more permanent and viable farming operations over the long term by strengthening the farming community's sense of security in land use and the right to farm. Areas are created by local municipalities in cooperation with individual landowners who agree to collectively place at least 250 acres in an Agricultural Security Area. 

Benefits of enrolling land in an Agricultural Security Area are:
  • An ASA designation is a prerequisite for eligibility in a country farmland preservation program. In counties that have established farmland preservation programs under the Agricultural Area Security Law, farms located in an ASA consisting of at least 500 acres may apply for the purchase of an agricultural conservation easement by the Commonwealth. 
  • Municipalities are not permitted to enact local laws or ordinances that would unreasonably restrict farm structures or farm practices within the ASA.
  • Any municipal law or ordinance which defines or prohibits a public nuisance must exclude any agricultural activity or operation that uses normal farming practices within an ASA. This serves as a check against municipal ordinances that may unreasonably restrict agriculture.
  • All commonwealth agencies must encourage the maintenance of viable farming in ASA's. 
  • Generally, no Commonwealth agency which has powers of eminent domain may condemn land within an Agricultural Security Area that is being used for productive agricultural purposes (not including the growing of timber) unless prior approval has been obtained from the Agricultural Lands Condemnation Approval Board (ALCAB). 
  • The ASA designation does not restrict the use of the property by the farmer. The farmer or any subsequent owners may develop, sell,  or subdivide the property in any manner authorized by local zoning and subdivision and land development regulations. 
  • The farmer is obligated to maintain the ASA status of the farm for seven years after the initial application. After the initial seven year period, the farmer may have the ASA designation removed at any time by submitting a written request to the municipality. 
  • The ASA designation will stay with the property when it is sold or subdivided. The only way a property can be removed from an ASA is through the action of the property owner or through a formal hearing process conducted by the municipality. 
  • The municipality may review the ASA every seven years or during the seven year period if there has been significant change of use of the properties located within the ASA. The property owners of the ASA designated property must be notified in writing on the review. If the municipality fails to review the ASA at the seven year interval, the ASA is automatically renewed for an additional seven years. 
The process of establishing an Agricultural Security Area is initiated by petition of owner's productive farmland totaling at least 250 acres. The land to be included must have soils conducive to agriculture and must be used for production of crops, livestock, livestock products, horticultural specialties, and/or timber. 

Landowners with property that meets the following conditions may apply to be in an Agricultural Security Area:
  1. Noncontiguous farm parcels must be compromised of 10 acres in size or more, or have an anticipated yearly gross income of at least $2,000 from agricultural production. The farm tracts that are required in order to create a new 250-acre or larger Agricultural Security Area do not have to be under the same ownership or even be located in the same municipality. 
  2. The property must be viable agricultural land. Cropland, pasture, and woodland can all be included in an Agricultural Security Area.
  3. Land proposed musty have soils that are conducive to agriculture. This factor will be automatically satisfied if at least 50% of the soils are classified in Classes I-IV or if the soil is currently in active farm use and is being maintained in accordance with a soil erosion and sedimentation plan. 
  4. The property must be zoned to permit agricultural uses, but does not need to be zoned to exclude other uses.
  5. Additional factors to be considered are the extent and nature of farm improvements, anticipated trends in agricultural economic and technological conditions, and any other relevant factors. 

Longswamp Township Agricultural Security Area Advisory Council (ASAAC)

The Council consists of three active farmers, each representing a different private or corporate farm, one citizen residing within the municipality, and one member of the governing body who serves as the chair of the committee. The members of the Council are appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the governing body. The members serve without salary, but may be reimbursed for actual and necessary expenses incurred in the performance of official duties. The Council advises the governing body and works with the local planning commission in relation to the proposed establishment, modification, and termination of an Agricultural Security Area. In particular, the committee renders expert advice relating to the desirability of such action, including advice on the nature of farming and farm resources within the proposed ASA and the relation of farming in the Area to the municipality as a whole. 

For much more detailed information about the entire process, please view the Commonwealth of PA's Agricultural Security Area handbook.