Department of Environmental Conservation

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D. Agricultural Districts

In This Section You Will Learn about:

  • SEQR and agricultural districts.

(All links to regulations leave DEC website.)

1. What is an agricultural district?

An agricultural district is an area of land certified by the Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Markets (pursuant to Agriculture and Markets Law, Article 25, sections 303 and 304) for the purpose of encouraging agricultural activity and protecting farm land.

2. How does SEQR apply to agricultural districts?

SEQR applies to agricultural districts in two ways:

  • The adoption, modification and certification of an agricultural district is subject to SEQR, as are any subsequent modifications of such district; and
  • Type I thresholds are lower for actions in agricultural districts. See 617.4(b)(8)

3. What agencies must comply with SEQR in adopting, modifying and certifying agricultural districts?

County legislative bodies adopt or modify agricultural districts. The Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets must certify the districts and may, at his or her option, make modifications to a County proposal. The Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets may also create districts, upon his or her own initiative, for unique and irreplaceable agricultural land. The decisions of both the Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets and county legislative bodies in establishing or modifying agricultural districts are discretionary and subject to SEQR.

4. Is the initial adoption of an agricultural district a Type I action?

Yes. Paragraph 617.4(b)(1) lists as a Type I action the adoption by any agency of a comprehensive resource management plan. The formation of an agricultural district is considered to be a type of comprehensive resource management plan.

5. Is the recertification of an agricultural district with no material change subject to SEQR review?

No. The recertification of an agricultural district with no material change would be a Type II action. See 617.5(c)(20).

6. How does presence of an agricultural district affect SEQR classification?

Any proposed Unlisted action which would lead to a non-agricultural use occurring wholly or partially within an agricultural district, becomes a Type I action if it exceeds 25% of any of the thresholds which establish Type I actions, as specified in Section 617.4. For example, in municipalities which have not adopted zoning or subdivisions, an agency decision to undertake, fund or approve construction of ten or more residential units would normally be considered a Type I action (see 617.4(b)(5)(i)). If the action is being considered within an Agricultural District, the threshold for Type I review would be reduced to 2.5 units or, in effect, a proposal for three or more units would be treated as Type I. Similarly, the physical disturbance of more than 2.5 acres (25% of 10 acres) associated with the construction of a water main in an agricultural district would be a Type I action (see 617.4(b)(6)(i)).

7. How does the presence of an agricultural district affect the SEQR review of a proposed action?

The Full EAF Part 2 requires that a lead agency evaluate any proposed action's potential impacts on agricultural uses and resources. Within an agricultural district, there is a stronger presumption than in other areas that any agricultural lands, uses, or resources deserve special protection. Thus, in reaching a determination of significance, the lead agency must specifically address potential impacts on agriculture when a non agricultural use is proposed within an agricultural district. If a lead agency concludes that a proposed non agricultural use may adversely affect agricultural activities, or compromise the qualities the agricultural district was established to protect, the lead agency may examine those potential impacts further by an EIS.

8. Where can a lead agency find more information regarding agricultural districts?

Department of Agriculture and Markets
Agricultural District Program
10B Airline Drive
Albany, NY 12235
(518) 457-2713

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