Section I: The purpose of the Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) program is to permanently protect the Commonwealth’s most productive farmland, thereby enhancing the economic and environmental sustainability of Massachusetts’ agriculture. Two types of funding eligibility tracks are included in APR:
- The APR Municipal Grant Program (APR-Muni) incorporates an initial screen for funding of APR acquisitions that considers a municipality’s agricultural resources and/or agricultural economy. If a town meets this initial eligibility threshold, it can be considered for priority allocation of state APR funds, based on the type of “agricultural smart growth” principles the town has adopted. In other words, this source of municipal APR funding is available only to towns that demonstrate support of agriculture from a planning perspective AND have enough agricultural activity to be sustainable.
- APR projects that are not located in such priority communities may still be considered through more limited targeted APR program funds.
Section II: In addition to the standard project review procedures of the APR program, municipalities applying to the APR Municipal Grant Program for priority funds must meet the following eligibility threshold qualifications:
- The municipality has an agricultural land base that includes a minimum of 400 acres in active agricultural use, and/ or 1200 acres enrolled in Chapters 61 and 61A combined.
- The project must meet minimum soils requirements: A) for projects less than 20 acres, at least 75% of the land in agricultural use must be classified as Prime Farmland, Unique Farmland, or Soils of Statewide Importance, as defined and mapped by USDA-NRCS. B) for projects greater than or equal to 20 acres, at least 50% of the land in agricultural use must include the above described soil types.
- The municipality: A) targets a 20% financial match, to be achieved through any combination of a town contribution, non-profit contribution, landowner bargain sale, documented increase in parcel value since Final Vote, in-kind contributions, or other acceptable means; or B) requests a lesser match but demonstrates a history of financial support for farmland protection activities to the satisfaction of the Commissioner of Agriculture and the Agricultural Lands Preservation Committee; or C) requests up to a 5% reduction from the 20% match goal for each of action criteria items 6, 7 and 8 below.
[NOTE: In partnering with municipalities and landowners, MDAR has a targeted a goal of 20% local financial match per project. During fiscal year 2008, as we did in FY 06 and 07, the Department is allowing temporary bridge measures for towns that show progress towards increased investment in their agricultural resources. These interim credits are considered on a project-by-project basis and may be phased out in future program years. Under option 3-B, a community’s historical support for APR’s is reviewed case-by-case and is expected to improve, eventually attaining the 20% match goal. Under Option 3-C a full reduction can only be claimed after the implementation of the listed action criteria. Any reduction requested by the municipality under Option 3-C can-not be below the municipality’s historical average contribution for the prior five years.]
Section III: Where threshold requirements #1 and #2 above cannot be met, APR-Muni may allow specific projects to be eligible if the project at least contains the financial match requirements above, and either:
- is adding to an existing APR block of at least 200 acres; OR
- is part of a defined farmland block, of which 75% of the block is permanently protected;
Section IV: Once a town (or project) has met the basic eligibility threshold through one of the above methods, actual funding priority will be further based on whether a town has demonstrated support for agriculture as both a business and as a resource, through the following action criteria:
- established an Agricultural Commission or like entity (4 points)
- enacted a municipal Right-to-Farm bylaw (4 points)
- implemented a tracking system to prevent issuance of local permits for unauthorized construction on protected farmland (4 points)
- promoted local and regional direct marketing opportunities, including but not limited to creating farmers’ markets (3 points)
- identified/inventoried/mapped farmland to be protected (2 points)
- established a town farmland protection fund (3 points)
- developed community agricultural events and/or promotions (3 points)
- demonstrated support for farmland preservation under Chapter 61A by either exercising or assigning municipal Right-of-First-Refusal to non-profit land preservation organizations (3 points)
- created an agricultural overlay district and developed site plan review on single-family house lots within such districts (3 points)
- created buffer requirements on any non-farm development adjacent to agricultural lands (3 points)
- implemented a program that redirects development to marginal, non-agricultural areas (3 points)
- assisted in agricultural economic development, such as a TIF (tax incentive) for a business that supports local agriculture or assistance in locating and developing a value-added processing facility (3 points)
- Worked with regional efforts to include active agriculture in regional land use planning (2 points)
New: A municipality may accumulate points by committing in writing to address any of the above actions within the coming year, receiving half the allotted points for such a commitment. In subsequent years, it is expected that only full points for implementation can be claimed.
Who Must Apply:
Communities that are home to an APR project(s) that has received or will be receiving a final vote approval by the Agricultural Lands Preservation Committee within fiscal year 2012. Communities that applied in fiscal year 2011, but whose projects were not funded and closed by June 30, 2011, should re-apply for those project(s) to achieve the best possible overall score when funding consideration is underway in fiscal year 2012.
When to Apply:
Communities should submit their APR-Muni applications no later October 31st each year that they have a pending APR project. After October 31st, project applications are considered on availability of funds, and those without current APR-Muni on file cannot be considered for priority funding.
How to Apply:
Communities need to fill-out an APR-Muni scorecard and provide a short explanation for any points claimed. Explain how the community has implemented or is committing to implement a measure, and supply supporting documentation.
Note - Communities reapplying without changes or additions to their previous APR-Muni application already on file must still fill-out the current APR-Muni score sheet and have the form signed for funding consideration. Communities making new applications or submitting updates and additions to their previous application must provide supporting documentation on these changes or additional information.
Where to Submit:
The APR-Muni application, signatory page and supporting documentation is to be submitted to:
Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, 251 Causeway Street, Suite 500, Boston, MA 02114, Attention APR Program.
Click here for APR Municipal Application
For regional assistance contact your Field Representative .