NK KEEP IT GREEN – Four bills that appropriate voter-approved funds to the preservation of farmland have received unanimous, bipartisan support from the Senate Environment Committee.

Members of New Jersey Keep It Green, the state’s largest coalition of conservation groups, were on hand as the committee voted to advance each bill on Monday. Taken together, the bills appropriate more than $65 million to farmland preservation through state, county and local efforts. Additionally, legislation appropriating $60 million in voter-approved Green Acres funding was signed into law last week.

“We thank our environmental champions – Sens. Kip Bateman and Bob Smith, and Assemblymen John McKeon and Bob Andrzejczak – as well as the bill sponsors and Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto for their actions to protect the state’s rich farming and agriculture history and our need for and appreciation of open space,” said Keep It Green Chair Ed Potosnak. “We are grateful to see these funds moving closer to the ground and into the hands of preservationists, where they will be put to immediate good use.”

The funds would give New Jersey’s popular Green Acres program the resources it needs to continue to preserve land as open space. Voters made history by approving long-term dedicated funding for open space in 2014, but it took two years Gov. Christie to agree to release the money. As a result, the appropriations bills are just now moving through the Legislature.

“Preserving land in the most densely populated state is both a challenge and a priority,” said Kelly Mooij, coordinator of Keep It Green. “The only way for us to ensure that our drinking water is protected, family farms are not sold and kids have parks to play in is to provide the financial resources needed to meet this pressing need.”

Here are the individual bills and what they accomplish:

  • S2987/A4581 appropriates $22.4 million to the State Agriculture Development Committee for farmland preservation
  • S2988/A4584 appropriates $7.5 million for municipal planning incentive grants
  • S2989/A4580 Appropriates $2.9 million from the 2009 Farmland Preservation Fund to nonprofits for farmland preservation
  • S2990/4582 Appropriates $32.5 million to the State Agriculture Development Committee for county planning incentive grants

The bills all previously passed the Assembly unanimously.