NEW JERSEY – Legislation sponsored by Senator Jean Stanfield that would help preserve more farmland in New Jersey was approved by the Senate Economic Growth Committee.
“New Jersey has a rich agricultural heritage that extends multiple centuries and must be protected for future generations,” said Stanfield (R-08). “Preserving farmland limits the outward expansion of densely populated cities and the fragmentation of natural habitats in rural communities while ensuring residents have access to locally grown farm products. This legislation revises the appraisal process for the sale of development easements on farms to incentivize more landowners to participate in the Farmland Preservation Program.”
Under current law, the State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) is responsible for administering the Farmland Preservation Fund and certifying appraisers to determine the value of development easements.
The SADC partners with local governments, agriculture development boards, advisory committees, and non-profit organizations to identify and fund farmland preservation projects. When a landowner sells their development easement, they retain ownership of the land while relinquishing the rights to develop it for non-agricultural purposes. Future owners would also be bound by the sale of easements, ensuring the preservation of the farmland.
Senator Stanfield’s bill, S-3279, amends the existing law to establish a new appraisal formula that considers additional factors when determining the value of farmland for preservation purposes. These factors include the value of farmland in nearby towns and counties, the proximity of farmland to other protected areas, and the overall importance of preserving the land under review.
The new “Statewide Farmland Preservation Formula” will be used in addition to the current appraisal process and the higher of the two appraised values will be used as the basis for negotiating the acquisition price with the landowner.
Appraisals of farmland located in the Pinelands would additionally be required to consider the rate of inflation when determining the value of development easements. The bill does not change the process for farmland located in the Highlands.
“Locally grown food sources are a key economic driver for New Jersey and a valuable resource for the nation’s food supply,” Stanfield said. “Revising the appraisal process for the Farmland Preservation Program could protect vulnerable areas from urban sprawl and non-agricultural developments while providing fair compensation to landowners.”