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Farmland Preservation

, 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, as of December 12, 2012, 2,137 farms covering 200,850 acres had been permanently preserved statewide, including 89 farms covering 11,884 acres in the Pinelands and 448 farms covering 37,085 acres in the Highlands, which contribute not only to a secure land base for agricultural operations, but also to a host of other quality-of-life benefits at both the local and statewide level; and

WHEREAS, among the benefits of reaching the 200,000-acre milestone, preserved farmland remains privately managed and continues to contribute tax revenue to municipal budgets; and

WHEREAS, the $146 million in funding for farmland preservation made available through a public question on the November 2009 ballot has been allocated, enabling the State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) and its local, county and non-profit partners to continue New Jersey’s preservation efforts; and

WHEREAS, it remains critical that a permanent, long-term source of farmland preservation funding must be identified and implemented to continue to sustain farmland preservation efforts when this stopgap funding runs out; and

WHEREAS, it is imperative that the funds raised through any creation of a permanent funding source continue to be apportioned at least at the 40/60 split between Farmland Preservation and Green Acres open space that currently exists when funds are raised through ballot referenda; and

WHEREAS, it is essential that the availability of preserved farmland for agricultural purposes remain the central impetus behind preserving such land, yet the SADC must also be open to flexibility when farmers on preserved land present new ideas in New Jersey’s ever-changing agricultural make-up, and thus be willing to update its views as to what encompasses allowable uses of preserved farmland.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that we, the delegates to the 98th State Agricultural Convention, assembled in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on February 6-7, 2013, support the permanent protection of New Jersey’s farmland through the Farmland Preservation Program.

 BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge the SADC to continue its planning incentive grant process, which to date has resulted in the development of 17 county comprehensive farmland preservation plans and 44 municipal plans that address strategies not only to preserve farmland but to sustain agriculture as an industry.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we support the structure of those plans including one-, five- and 10-year goals that target the preservation of 27,000 acres at a cost of $377 million in one year; 119,000 acres at a cost of $1.6 billion over five years; and 228,000 acres at a total cost of $3 billion over 10 years.

 BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that, in view of the need for funds to carry out these programs, we urge the Governor and Legislature to identify a sufficient, stable and permanent source of funding, which is critically needed for the continuation and expansion of the Farmland Preservation Program once the stopgap funding approved by voters in 2009 runs out.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that in any future funding, we strongly support a 50/50 percent funding split for the Farmland Preservation and Green Acres programs.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we continue to strongly oppose any proposal to move farmland preservation acquisition or any of the SADC’s functions to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), on the grounds that such a consolidation would seriously undermine efforts to promote farmland preservation and further development of the agricultural industry, not only in this administration but in future ones where agriculture may not be a priority.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge the Department to work with New Jersey Farm Bureau and other agricultural organizations to increase education of the public about the economic differences between preserving farmland, which is privately managed, and publicly owned and managed open space.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we call upon the Governor and Legislature to restore stewardship funding assistance through the soil, water and woodland conservation cost-share program to the FY2014 budget at an adequate level to help farmers undertake critical practices to protect soil, water and woodland resources, and to ensure that the stewardship funding does not reduce the available funding for the Farmland Preservation Program.

 BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we strongly encourage the SADC to institute a requirement that, in future deeds of easements, that preserved farmland be kept in agricultural enterprise and production in accordance with all provisions of the Deed of Easement, rather than available for agricultural production, to ensure these lands continue to contribute to New Jersey’s agricultural industry, and further, we encourage the SADC to establish stewardship requirements for preserved farmland to ensure preserved farmland is properly maintained.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we support continued discussion by the SADC’s Deed of Easement Subcommittee to help clarify provisions of the deed of easement so that it is interpreted and enforced consistently and fairly across the state.

 BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we encourage the SADC to continue re-examining its list of what activities are permitted on preserved lands and to expand, where appropriate, the types of activities that can be permitted, provided they are consistent with the goals of the Farmland Preservation Program, and to develop a process which would allow owners of preserved farms, enrolled prior to the current policies that allow exceptions on preserved farms, to acquire an exception or exceptions consistent with the current policies of the SADC, which provisions will help maintain the ongoing viability of the farm in order to maintain public support for farmland preservation funding, and for the SADC to pursue legislative action to enable such exceptions if development of such a program requires it.

 BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we support the SADC’s expected adoption of the rule for solar energy on preserved farms and urge the SADC to complete its work on an AMP for wind energy on preserved farms expeditiously, since a draft rule has been circulated for technical review and SADC expects a formal rule proposal early in 2013, consistent with the provisions of P.L. 2009, Chapter 213, which enables farmers and other landowners to install such renewable energy systems to offset their farm energy costs and help improve farm viability.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we support the SADC’s staff reorganization, which will place increased emphasis on stewardship and agricultural development to better reflect the SADC’s mission to not only preserve farmland but also to promote innovative approaches to maintain the viability of agriculture.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge the SADC to revisit and revise the minimum qualifying standards for preservation in order to allow the many viable urban and suburban farms to better qualify for its preservation programs.

 BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge the SADC to interpret its authorizing statutes and regulations as broadly and liberally as possible to maximize the flexibility afforded to owners of preserved farmland and the degree of protection afforded to agricultural operators seeking Right to Farm protections.

 BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge the Governor and Legislature to maintain administrative funding to support the SADC staff from dedicated farmland preservation funding in order for the SADC to continue to preserve the maximum amount of farmland and ensure the proper monitoring and stewardship of preserved lands.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge the SADC to create plain-language documents regarding all the issues involved in farmland preservation, and to conduct outreach about those documents to those who have preserved their farms, those considering preservation, or those considering the purchase of a preserved farm, through avenues such as real-estate professionals, municipal planning and land-use offices, property auction houses and other appropriate entities.