skip to main content skip to main navigation
WHEREAS, the purpose of the Farmland Preservation Program is to preserve the State’s agricultural land base, helping to ensure the continued viability of New Jersey’s agricultural industry; and

WHEREAS, by the close of 2005, more than 1,300 farms totaling approximately 141,000 acres had been permanently preserved statewide – including 55 farms covering more than 7,800 acres in the Pinelands; and this is real progress in achieving the goals of the Agricultural Smart Growth Plan for New Jersey; and

WHEREAS, these preserved farms contribute not only to a secure land base for agricultural operations, but also to a host of other quality of life benefits that accrue at both the local and statewide level, but which are not easily quantified in numbers or statistics; and

WHEREAS, the preservation of farmland makes good economic sense on many levels:

· First, it helps preserve the State's agricultural industry, which contributes more than $800 million in farm gate receipts annually;
· Second, preserved farmland is privately maintained and continues to contribute to the local tax rolls; and
· Third, farmland is a positive tax ratable, generating far more tax revenue that it requires in public service costs; and

WHEREAS, implementation of the Garden State Preservation Trust Act (GSPT Act) has provided an average of $87 million per year since FY2000 for purposes of farmland preservation, allowing the program to accelerate and expand farmland preservation acquisitions; and that funding is anticipated to support the program only through FY 2008 or 2009, so an alternative source of funding must be identified and implemented soon in order to avoid a loss of program momentum and landowner interest; and

WHEREAS, the availability of GSPT funding has precipitated the creation of local farmland and open space trust funds among all 21 counties and some 210 municipalities that together have generated a 30% increase in available conservation funding Statewide, and has prompted the financial participation of various non-profit agencies and other non-government organizations (NGOs) in accomplishing land preservation transactions; and

WHEREAS, because New Jersey continues to experience a tremendously strong housing market, there exists an ever-increasing pressure to convert farmland to development throughout the State and this trend, in turn, is causing the rapid escalation of easement values throughout New Jersey as evidenced by a 120 percent increase in average certified easement values Statewide during the 2000-2005 period; and

WHEREAS, this rapid escalation in easement values means that fewer farmland acres can be preserved with the same amount of program funding, and that the program should, therefore, seek to preserve as much land as possible in as short a timeframe as achievable to maximize the preservation of land into the future; and

WHEREAS, a significant incentive that the Farmland Preservation Program could use to attract landowners to the program is to shorten significantly the time it takes from application to closing on an easement acquisition; therefore, as part of its efforts to better compete with the development community, and improve the program for all landowners, the State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) conducted a complete review of its acquisition processes and has formulated recommendations for change; and

WHEREAS, the most significant changes will amend the county easement purchase program by offering a new county-wide planning incentive grant program beginning in FY 2008; and this shift is expected to encourage counties to comprehensively plan for preservation and expeditiously complete closings on purchases of development easements, eliminate administrative duplication at the State and county levels, and shorten the preservation process by at least six months; and

WHEREAS, the proposed changes will also improve coordination between county agriculture development boards and the State in the targeting of farms for direct and fee simple acquisitions by the SADC; and

WHEREAS, the GSPT Act provides for a 40/60 percent funding split for the Farmland Preservation Program and Green Acres Program; and a provision in the Act that appraisals for farmland preservation purposes be based on either current zoning or that in effect as of November 3, 1998 – whichever yielded the higher value – expired in June 2004; and

WHEREAS, the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act signed into law in 2004 now provides that appraisals for farmland preservation purposes statewide be based on regulations and zoning currently in effect or in effect as of January 1, 2004 – whichever yields the higher value; this provision is in effect through June 30, 2009; and

, the State Agriculture Development Committee continues to work closely with county agriculture development boards, county planning boards and key municipalities on a more strategic, pro-active approach to prioritizing farmland preservation investments; the goal is coordinating farmland preservation efforts at all levels of government to make the most efficient and effective use of available resources in securing a bright future for farming and the agricultural industry, as a key component of New Jersey’s Agricultural Smart Growth Plan.

, that we, the delegates to the 91st State Agricultural Convention, assembled in Atlantic City, New Jersey on February 8, 2005, support the permanent protection of New Jersey’s farmland through the Farmland Preservation Program, a cornerstone of New Jersey’s Agricultural Smart Growth implementation efforts.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we strongly encourage the Governor and the Legislature to identify and implement a sufficient source of funding that will support the continuation and expansion of the Farmland Preservation Program in fiscal years 2010 and beyond.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we strongly support the current 40/60 percent funding split for the Farmland Preservation Program and Green Acres Program under the Garden State Preservation Trust Act, and recommend such allocation and the January 1, 2004 appraisal valuation provision contained in the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act be sustained in whatever funding source that succeeds the GSPT Act fund.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we support and encourage the further development of the SADC’s Process Review Committee recommendations to simplify, expedite and improve the effectiveness of the SADC’s farmland preservation programs.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we reaffirm that the Farmland Preservation Program was founded on the principle of equity protection – that landowners are entitled to receive fair-market compensation in exchange for the public’s benefit of preserving farmland and open space.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge the Governor and Legislature to revise the administrative funding support to the SADC from the Garden State Preservation Trust in an allocation formula equal to that of the Green Acres Program. This will improve the review time of easement purchase and other applications as well as increase staffing opportunities greatly needed in the Right to Farm Program.