Gov. Chris Christie recently signed a package of bills intended to further preserve New Jersey farmland. The legislation will help fund preservation efforts by counties and municipalities, as well as bolster New Jersey’s farming industry by increasing access to land and capital.[caption id="attachment_21639" align="aligncenter" width="550"] Photo courtesy of Stocksnap.io[/caption]
In 2014, New Jersey voters approved a constitutional amendment that dedicates four percent of Corporation Business Tax revenue each year for a number of environmental programs, including open space, farmland and historic preservation, water protection programs, site remediation, and underground storage tank programs. The allocation for the preservation of open space, farmland, and historic sites will increase to six percent in the fiscal year 2020.
The bills will clear the way for the first appropriations to preserve farmlands since the constitutional amendment was approved three years ago. Below is a summary of each of the bills:
- Assembly Bill 4580: The legislation appropriates $2.9 million from the Farmland Preservation Fund to the State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) for farmland preservation purposes. It will specifically appropriate funds for grants to four qualifying tax exempt nonprofit organizations: Lamington Conservancy, Monmouth Conservation Foundation, New Jersey Conservation Foundation, and the Land Conservancy of New Jersey. The funds may be used for (1) up to 50 percent of the cost of acquisition of development easements on farmland for farmland preservation purposes, or (2) 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 SADC.
- Assembly Bill 4581: The bill directs $22,385,743 to the SADC for certain farmland preservation purposes, including an appropriation of $14,304,403 to the SADC to pay the cost of acquisition by the SADC of development easements on, or fee simple titles to, farmland, to provide grants to counties and municipalities for up to 80 percent of the cost of acquisition of fee simple titles to farmland, and to provide grants to qualifying tax exempt nonprofit organizations for up to 50 percent of the cost of acquisition of fee simple titles to farmland. Among other appropriations to the SADC, the legislation steers $1,496,340 from the “Preserve New Jersey Farmland Preservation Fund” for the purpose of providing stewardship grants for activities, beyond routine operation and maintenance, undertaken by landowners, or farm operators as agents for landowners, to repair, restore or improve lands preserved for farmland preservation purposes, including soil and water conservation project activities and deer-fencing activities.
- Assembly Bill 4582: The bill appropriates $32.5 million to the SADC 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. Thirteen counties will each receive a “base grant” of either $500,000 or $1,000,000. Those 13 counties, as well as Atlantic, Camden, Cape May, Ocean, and Passaic counties, would also be eligible to compete to receive an additional grant from the “competitive grant fund” in an amount not to exceed $5,000,000. Accordingly, the total grant award a county could receive under the bill is $6 million.
- Assembly Bill 4584: The bill provides up to $7.5 million to the SADC for planning incentive grants to municipalities for farmland preservation projects. The bill provides grants to 19 municipalities in seven counties.
Do you have any questions? Would you like to discuss the matter further? If so, please contact me, William Sullivan, at 201-806-3364.