New Jersey bills designed to preserve farmland to become law

(The Center Square) – Gov. Phil Murphy has signed into law several bills intended to preserve farmland in the Garden State.

“Preserving farmland helps protect our water supply, continues the Garden State’s farming traditions, and limits over-development,” state Sen. Kip Bateman said in a news release. “It is an investment in New Jersey’s future that will pay dividends for generations to come.”

In total, the four initiatives allocate more than $57 million to the goal.

“Preserving the farmlands within municipalities can be an expensive feat, and these grants will be influential in helping to preserve these green spaces,” Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland, said in a news release. “Our reputation is the ‘Garden State’ after all, and these funds will help our state maintain this reputation for years to come.”

Senate Bill 3225/Assembly Bill 5081 appropriates $11.5 million to the State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) for municipal planning incentive grants for farmland preservation. Money from constitutionally dedicated corporate business tax (CBT) revenues will fund the initiative.

Under the program, 10 municipalities are eligible for base grants of either $500,000 or $1 million, totaling $6.5 million. The municipalities and 35 others are also eligible to compete for additional grants of up to $500,000.

“Farms are prime targets for residential or commercial construction,” state Sen. Steven Oroho, R-Sparta, said in a news release. “The grants made possible by signing my bipartisan bill will help New Jersey towns conserve farmland and maintain the identity of their communities. State residents have demonstrated their desire to safeguard the Garden State’s farm acreage and orchards.”

Meanwhile, Senate Bill 3226/Assembly Bill 5077 appropriates more than $29.8 million to the SADC for farmland preservation.

“With this bill, it is vitally important that we not only maintain our farmlands and open space, but make this an easier process all around,” state Sen. Dawn Addiego, D-Atlantic/Burlington/Camden, said in a news release. “These grants will be a great assistance to preserve our land and create a smoother, more efficient process.”

A third measure, Senate Bill 3228/Assembly Bill 5079, appropriates $12 million from constitutionally dedicated CBT revenues to the SADC for county planning incentive grants for farmland preservation. Under the legislation, jurisdictions in seven counties are eligible for the planning incentive grants that award up to 80% of the cost to acquirement development easements.

Lastly, Assembly Bill 5080/Senate Bill 3227 appropriates more than $3.7 million from constitutionally dedicated CBT revenues to the SADC for grants to qualifying nonprofit organizations. The money will help the organizations complete projects for a dozen farms with voter-approved CBT funding.

“New Jersey residents have endorsed efforts to save farms from bulldozers and preserve them for the future,” Bateman said. “Securing farmland is a priority here in the most densely populated state in the nation. Signing these laws ensures new generations will have the opportunity to appreciate the many contributions of farmers and the impact of farms and open space on the quality of life in our state.”

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