11/20/13 1:00pm
11/20/2013 1:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | U-pick operations like this one will soon be allowed on preserved farmland.

The Suffolk County Legislature Tuesday unanimously passed a bill amending the county’s Farmland Preservation Law, which will allow activities promoting tourism to take place on preserved farmland – ensuring such farm operations stay economically viable in the future.

The legislation, proposed by County Executive Steve Bellone, applies to land purchased in part or in whole by Suffolk County for the purpose of farmland development.

Once signed by Mr. Bellone, activities promoting agricultural tourism including U-pick operations, harvestable crop mazes and hayrides would become acceptable, as well as the addition of larger farm stands, permeable parking areas, and processing facilities that create locally crafted goods such as wine or potato chips.

The new regulations will also allow educational tours to teach visitors about agricultural production and environmental sustainability, according to the bill.

“These updates to the County’s Farmland Development Rights program will ensure that current and future generations of Suffolk County farmers will have the economic tools necessary to succeed on Long Island,” Mr. Bellone said. “Our agricultural industry not only drives our local economy but it sustains healthy communities with fresh local foods and preserves our overall quality of living.”

The amended code also calls for committee members to prioritize parcels of land being considered for purchase every six months, rather than once a year – to be drawn up in a comprehensive master list submitted to the County Legislature, according to the bill.

Group for the East End President Bob DeLuca said last month that while supporting farmers who operate on preserved land should indeed be on the county’s priority list after investing in the land, doing so should be done carefully.

“The primary purpose of the underlying investment was for agricultural production, so it’s important that farming not drift too far into entertainment,” Mr. DeLuca said.

“But obviously the underpinning of the financial investment is to protect farmland,” he said. “They don’t want to undercut the core of their investment, which is agricultural land for agricultural production. That requires some delicate balancing and regular scrutiny.”