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Assembly Democratic Bill Package to Fund Farmland Preservation Projects in NJ Continues Advancing
Bills Sponsored by Taliaferro, Burzichelli, Houghtaling, Andrzejczak, Singleton, Downey, Mazzeo and Zwicker(TRENTON) - A four-bill legislative package sponsored by Assembly Democrats Adam Taliaferro, John Burzichelli, Eric Houghtaling, Bob Andrzejczak, Troy Singleton, Joann Downey, Vince Mazzeo and Andrew Zwicker to invest in the preservation of farmland was approved Monday by a Senate panel.
The funds are dedicated through the 2017 budget and corporation business tax revenues.
The first bill (A-4580), sponsored by Taliaferro and Burzichelli, would appropriate $2.9 million from the "Farmland Preservation Fund" for farmland preservation grants to the following nonprofit organizations: Lamington Conservancy, Monmouth Conservation Foundation, New Jersey Conservation Foundation, and The Land Conservancy of New Jersey.
Under the bill, the grants could be used to cover up to 50 percent of the cost of acquisition of development easements on farmland for farmland preservation purposes, or up to 50 percent of the cost of acquisition of fee simple titles to farmland for resale or lease with agricultural deed restrictions approved by the State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC).
"New Jersey has a proud farming heritage that should be protected," said Taliaferro (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). "This investment ensures that the organizations at the forefront of farmland preservation have the financial resources to meet this important mission."
"Preserving farmland in the nation's most densely populated state should always be a priority," said Burzichelli (D- Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). "This helps ensure that there is a healthy balance between development and farmland so that our state's farming tradition can continue."
The second bill (A-4581), sponsored by Houghtaling, Andrzejczak, Singleton and Downey, would appropriate $22.4 million to the State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) for farmland preservation purposes. More than half of the allocation would be used to pay the cost of acquisition of development easements on, or fee simple titles to, farmland, and provide grants to counties, municipalities and qualifying nonprofit organizations for part of the acquisition cost of fee simple titles to farmland, for farmland preservation projects approved as eligible for such funding.
"The state benefits from having a healthy agricultural industry," said Houghtaling (D-Monmouth). "Preservation ensures there is ample land for food production."
"Preservation not only helps maintain the state's farming heritage, but contributes to the economy of the state and local communities," said Andrzejczak (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland).
"Consumers today are much more mindful of where their food comes from," said Singleton (D-Burlington). "This ensures that consumers can continue to enjoy locally grown products."
"Farming operations are expensive," said Downey (D-Monmouth). "This provides the financial resources to help farmers in New Jersey continue to grow their businesses and thrive."
The third bill (A-4582), sponsored by Andrzejczak, Mazzeo, Taliaferro and Zwicker, would appropriate $32.5 million to the SADC from dedicated corporation business tax revenues pursuant to the State Constitution's Preserve New Jersey Farmland Preservation Fund for the purpose of providing planning incentive grants to counties for up to 80 percent of the cost of acquisition of development easements on farmland for farmland preservation purposes.
Under the bill, 13 counties (Bergen, Burlington, Cumberland, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, Warren) would each receive a "base grant" of either $500,000 or $1 million. These counties, plus Atlantic, Camden, Cape May, Ocean, and Passaic, would also be eligible to compete to receive an additional grant from the "competitive grant fund" in an amount not to exceed $5 million. The bill would take effect immediately.
"New Jersey is known for its cranberries, tomatoes and other Jersey Fresh products," said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). "This ensures that we can continue to grow and stock market shelves with products that are made right here at home."
"Some of the biggest challenges in farming are access to land and capital," said Zwicker (D-Somerset/Mercer/Middlesex/Hunterdon). "This appropriation helps ease that financial burden."
The fourth bill (A-4584), sponsored by Zwicker and Taliaferro, would appropriate $7.5 million to the SADC for planning incentive grants to municipalities for farmland preservation purposes.
This bill would provide grants ranging from $250,000 to $500,000 to the following 19 municipalities in Cumberland, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Monmouth, Salem, Somerset and Warren counties: Upper Deerfield Twp., Elk Twp., Franklin Twp., Woolwich Twp., Alexandria Twp., Delaware Twp., Holland Twp., Kingwood Twp., Howell Twp., Manalapan Twp., Upper Freehold Twp., Pilesgrove Twp., Pittsgrove Twp., Upper Pittsgrove Twp., Peapack-Gladstone Boro, Blairstown Twp., Harmony Twp., Knowlton Twp. And White Twp. The bill would take effect immediately.
The bills were approved by the Senate Environment and Energy Committee. The bills were all unanimously approved by the Assembly in March and now await final legislative approval by the full Senate.
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