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Farmland Preservation

Date : Fri, 14 Dec 2012 13:06:00 -0500

For Immediate Release
December 13, 2012 Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

Farmland Preservation Today the Assembly Appropriations passed four bills to release funding for farmland preservation.The Farmland Preservation Program is one of the most successful programs in New Jersey however the Christie administration has done little to establish a stable source of funding for purchasing. In addition Christie opposed the 2009 Bond Act for open space purchases, but is now taking credit for it.This is the first time since 1988 that these programs have run out of money just last month Governor Christie spent the last of the Open Space. Having a stable source of funding is important to preserve farmland that would otherwise be bought by developers promoting sprawl and overdevelopment.

 "This is the last of our farmland preservation money even though it is important the money gets out this is the last of it. If we want to keep the garden in the garden state we need to find funding. We need a long term stable source of funding for open space acquisitions. We need funding from new sources such as a water surcharge so we do not cut more environmental programs," said Tittel. "The most popular programs in state's history will be coming to an end unless we find a stable source of funding. If that happens more land will be lost to development and sprawl. This is the best time to be buying open space when prices are low and may not get this opportunity for another generation."

A3591 Appropriates around $24 million to the State Agriculture Development Committee for farmland preservation purposes.

A3592 Appropriates around $38 million to the State Agriculture Development Committee for county planning incentive grants.

A3593 Appropriates**around $16 million to municipalities for farmland preservation purposes.

A3594 Appropriates around $4 million for grants to certain non-profit organizations for farmland preservation purposes New Jersey was averaging just under 10,000 acres a year in farmland preservation, which meant we were preserving more farmland per year than what was being lost. Now the developer will win since there is no more Farmland Preservation Funding to buy open space. The farmers now will only have developers and land speculators to sell too. In order to continue to preserve farmland we need to find new sources of funding like a water surcharges tax or extending the roll backs. By extending the roll back or creating a sprawl tax of $4000 an acre per year, about $40 million a year could be generated; almost enough to run the Farm Preservation program. Extending the rollback would be a great way to help protect farmland and open space and also produce more revenue to fund farm preservation. Currently there is a three year rollback when you change the use from farmland to development. By extending the rollback to ten years, millions of dollars for farmland and open space preservation could be generated. This money would not only help fund the program, it would mean that some of the farmland money from the Garden State Preservation Trust could be shifted to protect water supply lands or to build urban parks. Also by finding new sources of funding we can protect funding from being cut from other programs like education and the environment. There is $8 million in funding for the Highlands region, under previous administrations we were averaging $60 million a year. If the Governor wanted to protect the water supply for 5.4 million state residents we would be dedicating money to buy open space in the region and make land owners whole.

"There is not funding for farmland preservation in the Highlands even though the Governor has criticized the Highland's Plan for not doing enough for farmers. He is the first Governor to not have any money for Highland's farmers or anyone else for land preservation," said Tittel.

 The Governor is only devoting $3 million to acquisitions around the Barnegat Bay, which will do let to help the Bay and sprawl and overdevelopment are the biggest threats to the Bay's health. Open space funding would help limit this inappropriate growth and protect the most sensitive areas in the watershed.

"This has become one of the most sprawl promoting Administrations who are promoting growth in environment sensitive areas through the State Strategic Plan and weakening environmental protections like the Water Quality Management Plan. Now without funding for farmland we now have an Administration that is going to be promoting sprawl and overdevelopment on our last remaining farms," said Tittel. During the period from 1998 to 2008 Green Acres alone averaged 21,000 acres per year, now we are buying less than half of that. There is more than $500 million in back log to match money being put up by local governments to buy open space. During the last two decades we were losing between 15,000 and 20,000 acres to development each year, while we are only purchasing 10,000 acres of open space per year. We have seen sprawl turn the nurseries and flower farms along the Route 1 Corridor into office parks and shopping malls.

"In 1950 New Jersey had 2 million acres of productive farmland and now we are down to 600,000 acres. We need to have a stable source of funding to keep the garden in the Garden State. Because of Governor Christies rollbacks of environmental protections and cutting funding for open space we may need to change our name from Garden State to Paved Over Garden State," Jeff Tittel stated.

-- 
Kate Millsaps
Conservation Program Coordinator
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
609-656-7612
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