State College

Ferguson Township pledges $35,000 for farm preservation

The Board of Supervisors on Monday committed $35,000 toward the possible purchase of two farms within the township.

The board unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding pledging the funds to the Centre County Agricultural Land Preservation Board.

The identities and locations of the farms were not disclosed.

In the past, the preservation board acquired funding from the state by municipalities certifying dollar amounts to the state, according to preservation board senior planner Sarah Walter. The state would then match those dollar amounts to provide additional funding.

If a municipality wanted to commit money toward the purchase of an easement, Walter said, the municipality could give the money to the state, losing control of where it would be spent, or it could give the money directly to the land owner, assuring the funds were spent in the municipality.

Under the new municipal partnership program, a municipality can commit dollars to the preservation board, she said, but hold on to the actual funds. The board will then certify that amount toward state-matched funding. The county benefits from the matched dollars, but the municipality keeps its funding.

On average, Ferguson Township has contributed about $14,000 per year from 1999 to 2014, township Manager Mark Kunkle said.

Since the preservation board hasn’t completed its ranking of available farms in the county, Kunkle provided the board with several options: committing the budget-appropriated amount of $25,000, committing the total projected fund balance of $78,000, committing the average expenditure of $14,000, or committing no funds at all.

Of the ranked farms the preservation board is considering, two farms from Ferguson Township are in the top 10, Kunkle said. These farms total 229 acres, which, at the board contribution level of $150 per acre, would be a township contribution of about $35,000.

Former preservation board President Bill Keough, also a township resident, said Ferguson Township has the largest number of farms preserved in the county.

A large reason for this is due to the soil.

“A great deal of the preservation point system toward selection is based on soil,” he said.

“We have some of the best soil in the state of Pennsylvania.”

He said he would be disappointed if the board didn’t shoot for the $35,000 figure.

According to Walter, the state will match all funds at a rate of $1.40 to $1.