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Southwestern Pennsylvania Farms Receive Protection From Non-Agricultural Development

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA
Farmland along Interstate 279 near Pittsburgh. Two farms in southwestern Pennsylvania recently were granted protection from development that is not related to livestock or crop production.

Two southwestern Pennsylvania farms have been secured for permanent agriculture protection as part of a larger 40-farm conservation program.

The designation, formally called the Pennsylvania Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Program, ensures that farms are only used for crop and livestock production in an effort to slow the loss of state farmland. 

The Steven R., Richard, and Karen Torre farm in Allegheny County, which has a livestock operation, and the Charles F. and Samantha K. Glass farm, which produces crops in Indiana County have a combined 203 acres. Local, county and state governments, along with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture will work together to invest in the farms by purchasing an easement from the landowners on their property. That way, the land can only be used for agriculture and maintain original ownership. 

To receive protection, the farms must prove they are sustainable and responsible growers. Shannon Powers, spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture, said conserving farmland is good for Pennsylvania’s environment. 

“Land that is farmland is renewing the soil,” Powers said. “Farmers are working hard to protect the water that we need in the future.”

Agriculture has always been a significant part of Pennsylvania’s economy. Washington County once led the country in sheep production and the region was dotted with corn and oats farms. Powers said farmers face new demands these days.

“Farmers are challenged in a number of ways, they have pressure to sell their farms for development, they have pressure produced by trade wars, all kinds of pressures on their businesses,” Powers said. “But we live in a state that has made an incredible commitment to Pennsylvania’s farm economy.”

The program began in 1988 and the recent addition brings the total number of protected farms to 5,580. 

Katie Blackley is a digital editor/producer for 90.5 WESA, where she writes, edits and generates both web and on-air content for features and daily broadcast. She's the producer and host of our Good Question! series and podcast. She also covers history and the LGBTQ community. kblackley@wesa.fm
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