Frequently asked Questions Regarding Agricultural District and Agricultural Value Assessment

Does the agricultural district impact property taxes?

No. The agricultural districts do not affect your property taxes.  Agricultural lands may qualify for a tax break through the agricultural value assessment program.  Though agricultural value assessments and agricultural districts are governed by the same law, the process is completely independent.  Your taxes are based on the current land use and are determined by your town assessor independent of the agricultural district.  Your taxes will not automatically increase if your property is removed from the district nor will your taxes decrease for being in the agricultural district.

Tax benefits can occur in a few ways.  Land already with an agricultural value assessment – land with a property tax break because a farm meets sales and size requirements – can have this assessment for five years and convert to a non-agricultural use without incurring a penalty, as opposed to having to reach the normal eight years.  Also, land in agricultural production and in an agricultural district cannot have benefits assessments, special ad valorem levies, or other rates and fees for financing improvements such as water, sewer or non-farm drainage constructed on it, unless such charges were already imposed prior to the land being in an agricultural district.

Is the agricultural district part of zoning?

No. The agricultural district is not the same as zoning.  Zoning is local land use regulations.  Land in a certified agricultural district is in a New York State program to encourage the use of land for farming.  Officially, land in an agricultural district is in a New York State Certified Agricultural District.

Local Laws and Agricultural Districts – How do they relate?

Local governments, when exercising their powers to enact and administer comprehensive plans and local laws, ordinances, rules or regulations, shall exercise these powers in such manner as may realize the policy and goals set forth in this article (Article 25AA of the Agriculture and Markets Law), and shall not unreasonably restrict or regulate farm operations within agricultural districts in contravention of the purposed of this article unless it an be shown that the public health and safety is threatened.  Town Law, Village Law, General City Law and the Agricultural Districts Law are designed to encourage coordination of local planning and land use decision making with the agricultural districts program.

Does the agricultural district restrict me from doing certain things on my land?

No. The agricultural district doesn’t put any restrictions on what you can do to the land.  It does not prevent you from developing your land into residential or commercial uses in the future.  Its main goal is to provide protections for current and potential agricultural lands and to encourage agriculture to continue.  You may build new structures on land in the agricultural district, following the same process as lands outside of the agricultural district.

Do agricultural districts prohibit selling land?

No. Being in an agricultural district does not prohibit the selling of land.  New York State Agricultural District Law (ADL) does not restrict the transfer of real property.  The ADL does provide for a real estate transfer disclosure by the seller to the prospective purchaser.  The discloser states if the property is located within an agricultural district and if farming activities including noise, dust and odors occur within the district.  Prospective residents are also informed if the location of the property within an agricultural district may impact the ability to access water and/or sewer services.

If my land is in an agricultural district, do I automatically receive benefits?

No. Only land considered by the State to be a “Farm Operation” receives the benefits. (See definition on NYS Agriculture and Markets Article 25AA – Agricultural District Excerpts page)

Where can I find out is my property is in an agricultural district?

Call the Putnam County Soil and Water Conservation District, Putnam County Real Property Tax Services Agency, or the town’s Tax Assessor.

What is an agricultural district review?

Districts are usually reviewed, or renewed, every eight years.  The Putnam County Legislature, after receiving the “renewal” packet from NYS Agriculture and Markets requests the PCAFPB to initiate a review of the entire agricultural district.  Once PCAFPB completes its review and submits its recommendations to the County Legislature, a public hearing is held to determine whether the district shall be continued, terminated or modified.  During the review process, land may be added or removed from the district.

Do non-farming residents benefit from an agricultural district?

Everyone benefits.  Besides its value for the production of food, agricultural land provides many environmental benefits including groundwater recharge, working open space, and scenic viewsheds.  Agricultural benefits local economies too, by providing on-farm jobs and supporting agribusiness.  Agricultural land requires fewer public services than developed land and results in cost savings for local communities.

Does an agricultural district guarantee a farmer’s “right to farm”?

Yes and No. The New York State Agricultural District Law protects “Farm Operations” within an agricultural district from the enactment and administration of unreasonably restrictive local regulations unless it can be shown that public health and safety is threatened.  NYS Agriculture and Markets evaluates the reasonableness of a specific requirement or process on a farm operation on a case-by-case basis.  The NYS Agriculture and Markets Commissioner may institute an action or compel a municipality to comply with this provision of the New York State Agricultural District Law.

Does and agricultural district preserve farmland?

No. they do not preserve farmland in the sense that the use of the land is restricted to agricultural production forever.  Rather, districts provide benefits that help make and keep farming as a viable economic activity, thereby maintaining land in active agricultural use.

Can government acquire or condemn farmland within an agricultural district against a landowner’s wishes?

The New York State Agricultural District Law (ADL) does not supersede a local government’s right to acquire land for essential public facilities like roads.  However, the ADL provides a process which requires a full evaluation of the effects of government acquisitions on the retention and enhancement of agriculture and agricultural resources within a district.

Who bears the cost f the agricultural assessment benefit?

Property taxes saved by farmers as a result of agricultural assessments must ultimately be made up by all taxpayers in the affected municipality.  However, farmers, as with other homeowners, must bear their fair share, since their residences are not subject to an agricultural assessment.  Keep in mind  their agricultural land does not require as much local services.