Agricultural Districts

Planning and Development
Eoin Wrafter, Commissioner


In 1971, the NYS Legislature authorized the creation of county-administered Agricultural Districts, whose key purpose is to protect and promote the availability of land for farming purposes. The State statute is available here.

Agricultural Districts benefit farmers and owners of farmland 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; and
  • Modifying the ability of public agencies to acquire farmland through eminent domain.

Currently, these districts contain over 197,000 acres, as shown on this map of agricultural districts in Dutchess County (2017) (.pdf):

  • District #20 — 42,696 acres
    Towns of Clinton, Hyde Park, Milan, Pleasant Valley, Red Hook, and Rhinebeck
  • District #21 — 97,912 acres
    Towns of Amenia, North East, Pine Plains, Stanford, and Washington
  • District #22 — 18,059 acres
    Towns of East Fishkill, Fishkill, LaGrange, Poughkeepsie, and Wappinger
  • District #23 — 38,815 acres
    Towns of Beekman, Dover, Union Vale, and Pawling

For more information on Agricultural Districts, view our eNewsletter entitled, Agricultural Districts Law: Both Farmers & Municipalities Play a Role.

Annual Inclusion Process
Every year, from April 15th through May 14th, the Dutchess County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board (AFPB) accepts applications from landowners who wish to enroll their parcel(s) into one of Dutchess County’s four Agricultural Districts (i.e. 20, 21, 22, and 23). Following this application period, the AFPB reviews the submitted parcels and makes recommendations to the County Legislature for the inclusion of agriculturally viable properties that serve the public interest by assisting in maintaining a viable agricultural industry within the district.

8-Year Certification Process
Every eight years, the AFPB 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 Dutchess County and the Dutchess County Soil & Water Conservation District. The most recent 8-year certification process (2015-2016) resulted in a recommendation to include 4,315 parcels into newly certified Districts to the County Legislature; more details are available in the 2015-2016 Agricultural District Review report.  

Please note that Agricultural Districts may be confused with the following:

  • Agricultural Value Assessment Program: The Agricultural Value Assessment Program provides property tax relief for landowners by requiring that eligible farmland is assessed based on actual agricultural production value rather than its full market value. A landowner must still file an application with the local assessor to receive an agricultural value assessment, whether or not the parcel is in a certified Agricultural District. For more information on the Agricultural Value Assessment Program, contact the Dutchess County Real Property Tax Service Agency at 845-486-2140.
  • Local Zoning: Local zoning districts are designated by towns, villages, or cities, and may also be named “Agricultural Districts”. Local zoning codes define where agriculture and farming are allowed by the respective municipality, while State-certified agricultural districts provide certain protections to agricultural operations within their bounds. For more information on your local zoning laws, please contact your municipality directly.

Go to top of page