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Agricultural Districts

Planning and Development
Eoin Wrafter, Commissioner


Agricultural Districts in Dutchess County promote productive use of agriculturally valuable lands. In 1971, the NYS Legislature authorized the creation of county-administered Agricultural Districts. Subsequent amendments have broadened its scope, but the key purpose of Districts is to protect and promote the availability of land for farming purposes. View the State statute.

Agricultural Districts primarily benefit owners of land that is farmed by:

  • Providing the framework to limit unreasonable local regulation of accepted agricultural practices;
  • Providing Right-to-Farm provisions that protect accepted agricultural practices from private nuisance suits;
  • Modifying state agency administrative regulations and procedures to encourage the continuation of agricultural businesses;
  • Modifying the ability to advance public funds to construct facilities that encourage development;
  • Preventing benefit assessments, special ad valorem levies, or other rates and fees on farmland for the finance of improvements such as water, sewer or nonfarm drainage;
  • Modifying the ability of public agencies to acquire farmland through eminent domain.

Fifty-three of New York’s counties contain Agricultural Districts which together contain approximately 8.8 million acres. Dutchess County’s Agricultural Districts were first established in 1971/72 and currently contain over 197,000 total acres, as shown on this map (.pdf).

Enrollment of property into an Agricultural District is initiated by a landowner. Every spring (April 15 – May 15) there is an opportunity for property owners to enroll. Every eight years, the Dutchess County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board initiates a full review and certification process for all Districts, which is administered by the Dutchess County Department of Planning and Development, with significant help from Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Soil and Water Conservation District.

The 2015-2016 8-year certification process resulted in a recommendation to the County Legislature to include 4,315 parcels into newly certified Districts. Details are available in the 2015-2016 Agricultural District Review report (.pdf), which contains a thorough analysis of farming and farmlands in all four Districts. The updated Districts have been certified by the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets, and consist of the following:

DISTRICT #20 — 42,519 Acres
Towns of Clinton, Hyde Park, Milan, Pleasant Valley, Red Hook, Rhinebeck

DISTRICT #21 — 97,888 Acres
Towns of Amenia, North East, Pine Plains, Stanford, Washington

DISTRICT #22 — 18,044 Acres
Towns of East Fishkill, Fishkill, LaGrange, Poughkeepsie, Wappinger

DISTRICT #23 — 38,772 Acres
Towns of Beekman, Dover, Union Vale, Pawling

Agricultural Districts are sometimes confused with the following:

NYS Agricultural Property Tax Exemption Program:
Inclusion in a NYS Agricultural District versus obtaining an agricultural value assessment are easily confused. A landowner must still file an application with the local assessor for an agricultural exemption whether or not a parcel is in a certified Agricultural District. For more information, view our eNewsletter entitled Agricultural Districts vs. Agricultural Assessments: What is the Difference and Why Do They Matter? (.pdf), or contact the Dutchess County Office of Real Property Tax Services at 845-486-2140.

Local Zoning:
The NYS Agricultural District program is also frequently confused with local zoning districts which are designated by towns, villages, or cities and often also named “Agricultural Districts”. Local zoning defines where agriculture and farming are allowed or preferred. For more information on your zoning laws, contact your municipality directly.

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