TRENTON, N.J. – NJ Keep It Green today thanked Governor Christie for signing a package of bills that will provide $79.5 million for farmland preservation throughout the state.
“We are pleased that the Governor signed these bills, which ensure the protection of important farmland throughout the state,” said Tom Gilbert, NJ Keep It Green chairman. “Preserving farmland keeps our agriculture industry strong and provides families continued access to locally grown food. Additionally, preserving farmland and open space can help prevent additional flooding and mitigate damage from storms like Hurricane Sandy by allowing rain to soak into the ground rather than rushing off of it.”
This funding represents the last of the Farmland Preservation funds from the 2009 bond referendum, which voters approved to allocate $400 million for open space, farmland and historic preservation projects across New Jersey.
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.
In October last year, the Farmland Preservation program – which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year – reached an important milestone when New Jersey’s 200,000th acre of farmland was preserved. 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.
With the state projected to reach complete build out by mid-century, the Coalition is renewing its appeal for a bipartisan initiative that creates a long-term, sustainable funding source for the full suite of preservation and stewardship programs including Green Acres, Blue Acres, Farmland Preservation and Historic Preservation.
“Preservation of farmland and open space is critical to the economic, social and environmental health of New Jersey yet there is no long-term funding source for this program,” said Kelly Mooij, NJ Keep It Green coordinator. “Now that funds from the 2009 bond referendum are completely allocated, NJ Keep It Green is urging the Governor and legislative leaders to work together this year to develop a bipartisan, sustainable funding initiative that will protect farmland, preserve open space and historic sites and aid Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts.”
A recent statewide poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind and co-sponsored by the New Jersey Farm Bureau found that 83 percent of New Jersey residents support the continuation of funding for the preservation of open space and farmland.
In addition, 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.
The bills signed by the Governor today provide funding for a range of farmland preservation projects throughout the state. Specifically, the bills include:
- $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.
Last month, the Governor signed a package of bills that will provide the final $123 million in Green Acres and Blue Acres funding to support preservation projects statewide.
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.