The new Erie County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Plan creates innovative strategies to guide the County to identify and protect agricultural land with development pressure, support new farms and attract new farmers to Erie County, identify strategies to increase the financial viability of agriculture in the County, connect rural and urban farmers with consumers and new markets, and increase accessibility of healthy, local food for consumers.
The Plan includes:
- an analysis of agriculture and development pressure in the County;
- summaries of the various public meetings and individual interviews that were conducted as part of the process;
- summaries of other planning documents specific to agriculture that are currently being used in the County;
- information about the “tools” in the “toolbox” that Erie County does and can use to support farms and protect farmland;
- a set of strategies with goals and recommended actions for implementation.
Land in Erie County Agricultural Districts: identifies the 14 state-certified, county-approved agricultural districts in the county. (Note: there are agricultural districts numbered greater than 14 due to district consolidation of lower number districts.)
Agricultural Parcels and Cropland Coverage: identifies active agricultural land within agricultural parcels (some land in parcels may be woodland or scrub land and is not tilled).
Agricultural Soils Rating: identifies parcels with the greatest amount of high-quality soils. Soils with USDA soils classifications of prime received a rating of 2; prime when drained rated 1.5; and soils of statewide importance rated 1. The number of acres in each category in a parcel was multiplied by those weighting factors then the totals were added together.
Natural Resources Rating: identifies and values parcels with particular natural resources features. The number of acres in each of three categories was added together to determine the Natural Resource Value Rating for a parcel: state or federally-regulated wetland, including a 100-foot buffer from wetlands regulated by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation; land within 75 feet of a mapped stream or lake; land within 500 feet of the Lake Erie shoreline.
Natural Resources Rating Features: identifies DEC and federal wetlands, streams, and agricultural parcels.
Proximity to Protected Lands: identifies parcels located within 500 feet of protected farmland (land that is restricted from development due to a conservation easement or owned by a municipality and leased for farm use), a public park, or other preserved land.
Framework for Regional Growth Policy Areas: identifies agricultural parcels in relation to regional growth policy areas from the Erie Niagara Framework for Regional Growth. The Framework delineates Developed, Developing, and Rural areas as well as Development Centers and Corridors.
Clusters of Parcels with High Agricultural Soils Values: identifies areas in the county that have groupings of large farmland parcels with excellent soils. The identified areas are generalized and have value when using planning tools to protect areas of farmland with the best soils in the county. These clustered areas do not take into consideration development pressure, but do depict places where non-farm development should not occur. These are excellent areas in the county for farming – the best soils, largest parcels, and highest quantity of adjacent farmland.