(POHATCONG) - Speaking in the heart of Warren County's
Highlands region, Agriculture Secretary Charles M.
Kuperus today applauded the state, municipal and county
partnership aiming to preserve more than 100 farms
in Pohatcong, and highlighted the importance of Public
Question #1 on the November 4th ballot to make available
more state funding for Highlands preservation.
"Through approved planning incentive grants,
Pohatcong has identified four project areas for farmland
preservation efforts that will help preserve the
agricultural character of the township," said
Secretary Kuperus. "By promoting a comprehensive
approach to preservation, planning incentive grants
like these are key to our efforts to promote smart
growth, strengthen agriculture and protect the quality
of life in our communities."
Kuperus also discussed the importance of Public
Question #1 in the state's efforts to protect drinking
water and stop sprawl. He said the constitutional
amendment would make available $150 million more
to acquire and protect open space and farmland in
the Highlands, as well as to fund park development
in densely populated cities, older suburbs and other
developed communities - without placing additional
costs on New Jersey taxpayers.
Kuperus spoke at Gary Hartung's farm, part of a
scenic, 561-acre property that was preserved five
years ago. The tract was divided into three farms
for auction sale, and Hartung, who has farmed in
the area since childhood, purchased a 201-acre segment
in 2000. He lives there with his wife, Michell, and
daughter Kimberly, growing field crops such as corn,
soybeans, wheat and hay. "Right around me all
the land is protected. You know you can stay in farming," Hartung
Pohatcong Township Councilman Steven Kehayes played
a key role in project area planning. He said the
township in coming months expects to complete the
preservation of the first four farms totaling almost
400 acres through the Planning Incentive Grant program.
To date, eight farms totaling 1,077 acres have been
preserved in Pohatcong through more traditional programs.
"When the Planning Incentive Program began,
we took a look at it, knowing there was the municipal
will to preserve land. We saw there were new tools
opening up," Kehayes said. "You can put
several farms together and it saves you a lot of
time and money."
Kuperus chairs the State Agriculture Development
Committee (SADC), which approved all of Pohatcong's
applications for Planning Incentive Grants that could
preserve as many as 122 farms covering 5,338 acres.
The SADC provides funding annually in stages based
on the progress made by the applicant in reaching
agreements with landowners.