TRENTON, N.J. – NJ Keep It Green today cheered the approval by the General Assembly and the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee of $79.5 million to support farmland preservation throughout the state. This includes the last of the funds from a 2009 voter-approved bond issue that provided $400 million for Blue Acres, Green Acres, Farmland Preservation and Historic Preservation projects across New Jersey.
“Our legislators clearly understand the importance of keeping the garden in the Garden State,” said Tom Gilbert, chairman of NJ Keep It Green. “By protecting our farms, we are protecting our agriculture industry in New Jersey, preserving our way of life and ensuring that we continue to have access to locally grown, Jersey Fresh food.”
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.
“By investing in our farms and open space, we are supporting our economy and at the same time helping to protect against costly damage from future storms like hurricanes Sandy and Irene,” said Kelly Mooij, coordinator of NJ Keep It Green. “With the last of the preservation funds fully allocated, we look forward to working with Governor Christie, Senate President Sweeney, Speaker Oliver and other elected leaders to develop a bipartisan initiative to sustain funding for farmland preservation, Green Acres, Blue Acres and historic preservation.”
The remaining farmland preservation funding from the 2009 bond 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.
Public support for funding for Farmland Preservation, Blue Acres, Green Acres and Historic Preservation continues to rank high in New Jersey.
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.
Moreover, a recent Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press poll assessing Hurricane Sandy’s impact on New Jersey found that 80 percent of Garden State residents support using state tax dollars to restore existing wetlands and bays to better absorb storm surges and flooding. Seventy-three percent support using state tax dollars to rebuild boardwalks and other public amenities at the Shore.
Fortunately, through the state’s Blue Acres and Green Acres programs, New Jersey already has effective mechanisms in place that can help achieve these goals.
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.