Farmland Protection

Agricultural Districts

Enacted in 1971, New York’s Agricultural Districts Law (ADL) is a very effective tool for maintaining lands in agriculture, and ensuring New York’s position as an outstanding agricultural state. The ADL recognizes that agricultural lands are important and irreplaceable resources, which are in jeopardy of being lost to as a result of increasing costs of agricultural businesses, development pressures and regulatory constraints. Agricultural Districts Law seeks to create economic and regulatory incentives which encourage farmers to continue farming. The ADL has two basic components, agricultural assessments for taxes and agricultural district creation and review.

The first agricultural district was in Sullivan County was established in 1975. The County currently has two agricultural districts.

Ag districts consist of viable agricultural lands, or, in other words, lands that are currently used for agriculture or may be used for agriculture in the future. Agricultural districts may include not just farm fields, but also residential, forested and commercial properties that are part of an agricultural enterprise.

Agricultural districts are not permanent but instead change through time. Every year, from April 1st to April 30th, Sullivan County accepts applications from property owners who would like some or all of their land added to an agricultural district. The districts are also reviewed every eight years to ensure they reflect current land use. At that time land that has been developed, or is in any way no longer viable for agriculture, can be removed from the district.

To learn more about Sullivan County’s agricultural districts and the benefits they provide,  please click on this link to connect to the County website.

Agriculture Value Assessments

The agricultural assessment program allows eligible farmland located both within and outside agricultural districts to be taxed at its agricultural assessment, rather than at its fair market value. The agricultural assessment value establishes an “upper limit” for taxable assessments on eligible farmland. Any assessed value which exceeds the equalized agricultural assessment on the land may qualify for a reduced tax assessment.Landowners must apply to their local town assessor annually for an agricultural assessment.

To qualify for an agricultural assessment, you must meet one of the following criteria:

  1. Own at least seven acres of land which produces a minimum of $10,000 annually, or own less than seven acres of land which produces a minimum of $50,000 annually, on average, in the preceding two years from the sale of crops, livestock, or livestock products.
  2. Have a start-up farm operation in the first year of operation on owned or rented land that meets the minimum acreage and sales thresholds.
  3. Own rented land if the land independently satisfies the minimum acreage and sales requirements (see above) or is being used pursuant to a lease agreement of five or more years in conjunction with land which independently qualifies (in other words, if the operation leasing the land meets the acreage and sales requirements).

For more detailed information on Ag Value Assessments, please click here to visit the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance for an overview of the rules or contact your local assessor for more detailed information on qualifying for the agricultural assessments.

NOTE: Owners who convert lands benefiting from an agricultural assessment to non-farm use are liable for conversion payments based on the amount of taxes saved. Owners contemplating a conversion may determine the payment owed by contacting their assessor or the Sullivan County Real Property Tax Services.

Remember: Applications for Agricultural Assessments are due March 1 each year, so please plan accordingly.

If you think you qualify for an agricultural assessment, the first step is to get a Soil Group Worksheet made. Contact the Sullivan County Soil and Water Conservation District at 845-292-6552 or visit their website to learn more. The cost is $35.00 per parcel for a new worksheet and $15.00 per parcel for a revised worksheet. A soil group worksheet lists how many acres of each type of soil you have on your property. Your assessor will use this worksheet, along with the rest of your application, to help determine your assessment.

You have to apply for the Agricultural Assessment each year. However, you do not need a Soil Group Worksheet made every year. You will need a Soil Group Worksheet made if:

  • This is the first time you are applying for the Agricultural Assessment
  • The owner of the parcel changes
  • The dimensions of the parcel changes
  • The amount of land used for agricultural production changes
  • The amount of land used for agricultural production changes

Other Requirements

Please contact your local assessor to determine what other documents are necessary to apply for the Agricultural Assessment. For more information on the 2015 Agricultural Assessment Values visit the NYS Agriculture and Markets website.

Additional Resources

To learn more about Agricultural Exemptions visit the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance website.

To learn more about Agricultural Exemptions read the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance “Farm Building Exemptions” Brochure.


Melinda Meddaugh
Agriculture & Food Systems Team Leader
(845) 292-6180 Ext. 116

Last updated February 20, 2018