With farmland covering close to 45 percent of Madison County, agricultural districts are critical in protecting our agrarian landscape. Among the benefits to having productive farmland in our county is the often-overlooked benefit that farms pay more in taxes than they require in municipal services.

As farmers often say, “Cows don’t go to school and tractors don’t dial 911.” Recognizing the benefits and importance of farmland, New York enacted the agricultural districts law in 1971 to keep farmland in agricultural production. Agriculture districts are defined by a geographic area of at least 500 acres consisting predominantly of viable agricultural land.

By 2001, the state had 343 county-level agricultural districts, encompassing nearly 22,000 farms and more than 8.5 million acres.

October has been designated as Madison County's "open enrollment" period during which properties can be added to an existing agricultural district by landowners submitting a proposal to the county. In order to be classified as an ag district, a county legislative body must approve and forward a petition for inclusion in districting to the commissioner of agriculture who then reviews for formal designation.

Once the geographic area has been classified as an ag district, any agricultural operations within the district are afforded benefits and protections to promote the continuation of farming and the preservation of agricultural land. In practice, districts may include land that is actively farmed, idle, forested, as well as residential and commercial. However, the priority use of land within the ag district is agriculture operations.

Being included in an agriculture district provides landowners incentives and protections including: preferential real property tax treatments e.g. agricultural assessment; special benefit assessment; protections against overly restrictive local laws and private nuisance suits involving agricultural practices.

Annually, landowners have a designated 30-day period to petition to become part of an agriculture district. In Madison County, that time period is the month of October.

To apply, contact the Madison County Planning Department by calling 315-366-2377 and ask for a survey form to submit postmarked by Thursday, Oct. 31. You can also print a form from the county website at madisoncounty.ny.gov/358/Agriculture.

For additional assistance, you can contact us at Cornell Cooperative Extension Madison County for help in this process.


To connect with us at CCE MC, please visit our website at madisoncountycce.org, send us an email at Madison@cornell.edu, or call us at 315-684-3001. We also encourage you to follow us on Facebook.