Newsday’s story on a court ruling prohibiting development on land from which the public has purchased development rights [“Ruling Limits Farm Use,” News, Oct. 17] misses three key points.

One, voters approved a program to protect farmland, vital soils and scenic vistas — not a welfare program for farmers. Two, farmers are free to practice “modern agriculture,” including development on their land. They just can’t take money intended for preservation, then develop their land, anyway. Three, the Suffolk County Purchase of Development Rights Program was approved by voters at referendum. The court ruled that as such, the program can only legally be changed by a subsequent referendum — not at the whim of politicians and the agriculture industry. This has been upheld by appellate courts in the past.

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Simply put, Suffolk residents will pay farmers to preserve their land, but not to develop it.

Richard Amper, Riverhead

Editor’s note: The writer is executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, a nonprofit advocacy organization that brought the suit described in this letter.