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Old barns, although no longer practical for modern farming purposes, should be preserved as monuments to the state's agricultural heritage, Gov. George E. Pataki said Friday.

The governor signed a bill into law creating the New York State Barns Restoration and Preservation Program to help pay for the renovations of barns and other aging farm buildings.

The $2 million program will help pay for 80 percent of the cost of repairs -- up to $25,000 per project -- to the roofs, foundations, walls and sills of farm structures.

Owners must pay the other 20 percent in cash or labor. The buildings must be at least 50 years old.

"Some of the best scenery in New York State features historic farm buildings that remind us of our heritage," said Pataki, who grew up on a farm in Peekskill.

State Sen. Nancy Larraine Hoffmann, R-Onondaga, sponsored the legislation. She said old farm buildings are "symbols of cultural lifestyles of earlier generations" in New York. Many of the structures are like "cathedrals," Hoffmann said, built meticulously by craftsmen in eras before power tools.

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