New Jersey Farm Bureau today joined NJ Keep It Green in urging voters to Vote Yes on Public Question 2 on Nov. 4 to dedicate state funds for open space, farmland and historic preservation.
“Funding for the New Jersey Farmland Preservation Program is critical to keeping the garden in the Garden State,” said New Jersey Farm Bureau Executive Director Pete Furey. “By voting yes on Public Question 2, New Jersey residents can ensure that families continue to have access to fresh, nutritious, locally grown food for generations to come.”
Public Question 2 asks voters to dedicate existing state funds to protect clean water and ensure that future generations continue to have access to parks, open spaces, farmland and historic treasures. The funding will replenish the now-depleted Green Acres, Blue Acres, farmland and historic preservation programs, and continue funding to improve water quality, remove and clean up underground storage tanks, and clean-up polluted sites.
“From the pumpkins that decorate our doorsteps on Halloween to the cranberries that are on our Thanksgiving tables, New Jersey’s farms contribute to our quality of life in so many ways,” said Kelly Mooij, coordinator of NJ Keep It Green. “A yes vote on Public Question 2 will preserve our farms and protect our quality of life so that our children and grandchildren have the same opportunities that we have today.”
To date, New Jersey’s Farmland Preservation program has preserved more than 209,000 acres of farmland across the state. However, at least an additional 350,000 acres still need to be preserved to maintain a viable agriculture industry – the state’s third largest – in New Jersey, according to the state Department of Agriculture.
“New Jersey’s Farmland Preservation program is the best in the country,” said Greg Romano, director of statewide land acquisition for the New Jersey Conservation Foundation. “The successful passage of Public Question 2 will continue the state’s preservation legacy and not only protect our family farms, but also protect our drinking water and help support and maintain our parks and open spaces across New Jersey.”
Today’s news conference was held at Johnson’s Corner Farm in Medford, Burlington County, which was preserved in 2002 when the county purchased the development rights. To date, the county, in partnership with the state and local municipalities has preserved more than 30,000 acres of farmland, representing 230 farms.
“This farm has been in our family for two generations, and we are thankful that because of the farmland preservation program we are able to continue our tradition of providing our community with the freshly grown fruits and vegetables and the farm experience they count on us for,” said Eric Johnson, farm co-owner and son of the farm’s founders Bill and Betty Johnson. “Planting seeds, harvesting memories is our slogan. In the 90’s we were heavily pursued by developers to sell our farm for development. We honestly did not know what was best for our family. Sell and relocate or stay in Medford. The farmland preservation program allowed us to make a commitment to farming in Medford and provided us with the capitol and confidence to grow our business.
Public Question 2 ensures stable funding for the preservation and care of open space, parks, farmland, historic sites and flood-prone areas by reallocating 4 percent of existing corporate business tax revenues that are already dedicated to environmental programs through fiscal year 2019 and dedicating an additional 2 percent of existing corporate business tax revenues from fiscal year 2020 going forward. “We recently purchased a second persevered farm in Springfield township to have more space and the opportunity to grow our farm for the next generation, ” Johnson continued. “I am voting yes on Question 2 because New Jersey’s agriculture industry depends on preserving family farms like ours.”
Open space, farmland and historic preservation programs received an average of $200 million annually under the 1998 Garden State Preservation Trust. Under the ballot question, preservation programs would receive approximately $71 million annually the first four years, and then $117 million annually thereafter, providing reduced but critical baseline funding without raising taxes. In addition, approximately $30 million annually will be provided for programs to improve water quality, remove underground storage tanks before they leak, and clean up polluted sites.
Additionally, for the first time ever, a provision for stewardship is included that will require some funds to go toward helping take better care of the parks and natural areas New Jersey already has. It will fund critical repairs, restoration and improvements to parks, natural areas and lakes, rivers and streams across New Jersey – making it easier for the public to visit and enjoy them.
Also joining for today’s event were pre-school children from Respond Inc., in Camden. The children enjoyed hayrides and pumpkin picking. NJ Keep It Green donated pumpkins to Respond so children could decorate them for Halloween.
“It is important for children everywhere, including in urban areas like Camden, to be able to enjoy the benefits our local farms provide,” said Wilbert Mitchell, executive director of Respond. “We owe it to our children and families to vote yes on Question 2 and preserve our farms for the health of all of our communities.”
About NJ Keep It Green NJ Keep It Green is a coalition of more than 185 park and conservation organizations working to create a long-term, dedicated source of funding for the preservation and stewardship of New Jersey’s natural areas, waterways, parks, farmland and historic sites. NJ Keep It Green led successful campaigns to pass statewide ballot measures in 2006, 2007, and 2009 generating $600 million for state open space, farmland and historic preservation programs. For more information visit www.njkeepitgreen.org.