TRENTON, N.J. – NJ Keep It Green today applauded the Assembly Appropriations Committee for approving $79.5 million to support farmland preservation throughout the state. This includes the last of the funds that were set aside through a 2009 voter-approved bond referendum, which allocated $400 million for open space, farmland and historic preservation projects across New Jersey.
“Protecting New Jersey’s farmland is critical to the success of our economy and to upholding our way of life here in the Garden State,” said Tom Gilbert, chairman of NJ Keep It Green. “This funding continues the state’s strong commitment to preserving family farms that support our health and well being by providing fresh, local produce and open space.”
“Farmland and open space also help control and mitigate flooding, which is becoming increasingly important as storms like Hurricane Sandy occur with more frequency,” Gilbert said.
The remaining farmland preservation funding will be allocated as follows:
- $38.5 million will be used to assist counties in preserving farmland under the County Planning Incentive Grant Program. A participating county can be eligible for a base grant of up to $1 million. A county that spends down its base grant is eligible to compete for additional monies from a $25 million grant fund; the maximum county grant under this program is $6 million.
- $16.25 million in grants will help 31 municipalities preserve farms under the Municipal Planning Incentive Grant Program. Three towns participating in the program for the first time are eligible for $750,000 each, while the remaining municipalities are eligible for $500,000 each.
- $20.64 million will allow the State Agriculture Development Committee to directly preserve farms under its State Acquisition Program.
- $4.1 million in grants will assist four nonprofit organizations in preserving farmland.
“NJ Keep It Green thanks the Assembly Appropriations committee for helping to keep the garden in the Garden State,” said Kelly Mooij, coordinator of NJ Keep It Green. “Now that the last of the preservation funds have been fully allocated, we look forward to working with the Governor and legislative leadership to identify a long-term, bipartisan funding initiative to ensure that preservation efforts continue.”
Food and agriculture is New Jersey’s third largest industry. In 2011, the state’s more than 10,000 farms generated $1.1 billion, according to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.
Earlier this year the farmland preservation program reached an important milestone when New Jersey’s 200,000th acre of farmland was preserved. To date, more than 2,100 farms have been permanently protected. Despite this success, an additional 350,000 acres of farmland still need to be preserved to maintain a viable agricultural industry in the Garden State.
According to a recent statewide poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind and co-sponsored by the New Jersey Farm Bureau, 83 percent of New Jersey residents support the continuation of funding for the preservation of open space and farmland.
Additionally, NJ Keep It Green in the spring of 2012 commissioned a survey of 600 registered voters that found 75 percent would support dedicating $200 million annually for 30 years for open space, farmland and historic preservation. The survey also found that 89 percent of voters believe it is important to protect coastal and inland areas prone to or affected by flooding.
About NJ Keep It Green
NJ Keep It Green is a coalition of more than 175 park and conservation advocates working to create a long-term, dedicated source of funding for the preservation and stewardship of New Jersey’s natural areas, waterways, parks, farmland and historic sites. NJ Keep It Green led successful campaigns to pass statewide ballot measures in 2006, 2007, and 2009 generating $600 million for state open space, farmland and historic preservation programs. For more information or to sign the NJ Keep It Green Statement of Support, visit www.njkeepitgreen.org.