Farmland Preservation Could Be in the Green Again, if Funding Clears

Appropriation from corporate business taxes would be first since voters passed constitutional amendment in 2014

For the first time in a few years, the state is starting to dole out tens of millions of dollars in grants and aid to help preserve farmland across New Jersey.

The Assembly Agricultural and Natural Resources Committee is scheduled to consider a package of four bills on Monday that would mark the first appropriation to set aside farmlands since voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2014 dedicating corporate business taxes to this purpose.

It is has been a long time coming, according to conservationists.

“We’ve been waiting quite awhile for the farmland preservation program to get back going,’’ said Ed Potosnak, chairman of the New Jersey Keep It Green coalition, which lobbied for the preservation ballot question.

In the past, the state largely relied on bond issues to finance farmland preservation, but the passage of a ballot question committing a portion of corporate business taxes for conservation purposes provides a stable source of funding to protect open space and agricultural land.

The four-bill package is identical to three measures introduced earlier this month in the Senate, which also have yet to be acted upon.

One of the bills (A-4580) appropriates $2.9 million in grants to nonprofit groups to help preserve farmland. A second bill (A-4581) would steer $22.3 million to the State Agricultural Development Committee to purchase easements or other titles to help protect agricultural land. Another measure (A-4582) would set aside $32.5 million in money for county farmland preservation projects from the corporate business taxes.

The final bill in the package (A-4584) would provide up to $7.5 million in incentive grants to municipalities for farmland preservation projects.

Typically, the projects receiving such appropriations in the package win final legislative approval before the summer budget recess.