What is Purchase of Development Rights?

A Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) program pays you to protect your land from development and keep it open for agricultural use. Most PDR programs are flexible and farm-friendly. When you sell your development rights under a PDR program, you get paid the difference between the value of your land with restrictions promoting agriculture and its value for development. A conservation easement is placed on the property that outlines how your land is restricted. The conservation easement is a perpetual document that will protect your farm forever.

How Does the Process Work?

The Dutchess Land Conservancy has many years of experience working with farmers to protect their land. DLC works with the State of New York Department of Agriculture and Markets, Dutchess County, local municipalities and private individuals to raise funds for farmland protection projects. The State and County have formal PDR programs, which include applications and specific grant requirements. DLC, in partnership with the State, County and others, has successfully completed many farmland protection projects and has helped raise millions of dollars to buy development rights on farms. Here’s how it works:

    • If you are interested in protecting your farm, give us a call and we can discuss your farmland protection options. We can get an idea of your goals for your farm and the best approach for its protection.
    • The next step is to meet with DLC at your farm so we can see the land and get an idea of your current agricultural use of the farm and your future plans. We can discuss the various PDR programs and the most appropriate funding program for your farm given your plans. At this time, we highly recommend that you consult with your legal and/or tax professionals. Farmers often incorporate selling development rights as part of their estate planning process. It is very important that you understand and consider the financial implications of selling your development rights. DLC can provide you with a list of attorneys and other professionals that can assist you with this important decision.
    • If after talking to DLC staff, you determine that you are interested in selling your development rights, the next step would be to complete a Dutchess County Farmland Protection Board questionnaire and write a letter stating that you are interested in selling your development rights. DLC can provide you with a copy of the questionnaire and an example of the letter. The questionnaire asks you various questions about the current and possible future use of your farm. It also asks you to consider things such as the number of farmstead complexes you would like on the property, potential reserved sites for family members, and the interest of family members in continuing the farming operation. These are all important considerations and DLC can help you complete the questionnaire.
    • Once we have received your questionnaire and letter of intent and we have determined the best source(s) of funding for your project, we can proceed with the grant application(s). Most PDR grant programs require a municipality or land trust to be the grant applicant rather than the farmer. Therefore, depending upon the source of funding, DLC will reach out to the County or your town to discuss the most appropriate entity to be the grant applicant. Dutchess County and local municipalities have been very supportive of farmland protection efforts and when necessary have been more than willing to act as the grant applicant.
    • DLC will work with you and the grant applicant (if not DLC) to prepare the PDR application. Most applications will be submitted to Dutchess County or to the State of New York Department of Agriculture and Markets. The County’s farmland protection program deadlines are currently January 31st and July 31st. The State’s deadline varies but typically it is in the fall.
    • Depending upon the grant program, it is typically six months before we will hear if a grant has been awarded to purchase the development rights on your farm.
    • If we receive notice that a grant has been awarded, DLC will work with you to prepare and obtain all the necessary documents to complete the project. With your help, DLC will draft a conservation easement that reflects your plans for the farm as were stated in the PDR application. Other documentation to complete the project includes a survey of the farm, title commitment, and appraisal. Additionally, depending upon the source of the grant and the amount awarded, we may need to work together to raise additional funds to complete the project. Alternatively, some farmers find it financially beneficial to accept less than the full value of their development rights in what is called a “bargain sale.” The bargain sale may be considered a charitable gift and you could potentially qualify for a tax deduction.
    • After all the PDR program requirements are met and we have received funding, the final step is the closing. At the closing, you will sign the conservation easement and be paid for your development rights. The conservation easement is recorded with the County Clerk and runs with the title of the land so that future owners will abide by the terms that you set forth and your farm will be protected forever.

How Long Will It Take to Complete the Process?

    • Most PDR projects are completed in approximately three years. This may vary depending upon the number of partners involved and the sources of funding. DLC will be in touch with you throughout the PDR project to keep you informed as to where we are in the process. Completing a PDR project is a very lengthy process and the time to complete the project should be part of your considerations when deciding whether to sell your development rights.

If you are interested in learning more about Purchase of Development Rights programs or other farmland protection options, please contact us at (845) 677-3002.


This information does not constitute legal or tax advice and DLC strongly recommends that you discuss your land conservation options with legal and tax professionals.