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Celebrating 30th anniversary of state's Farmland Preservation Program

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE/ 10/17/13

TRENTON - Senate President Stephen Sweeney joined NJ Keep It Green, the New Jersey Conservation Foundation and the New Jersey Farm Bureau in celebrating the 30th anniversary of New Jersey's Farmland Preservation program at a special event at the Urban Farm in West Deptford, Gloucester County on Oct. 15.

We thank Senate President Sweeney for joining us today to celebrate the state's proud legacy of farmland preservation, said Tom Gilbert, chairman of NJ Keep It Green. This is an important moment to both recognize how much has been accomplished by New Jersey's Farmland Preservation Program, as well as the critical need to establish a sustainable source of funding so New Jersey can continue to have a viable agriculture industry.

New Jersey's highly successful Farmland Preservation Program, administered by the State Agricultural Development Committee (SADC), has permanently protected more than 200,000 acres since its establishment 1983.

Preserving our farmland not only prevents sprawl, but it helps keep our economy moving and protects our hard working farmers," said Sweeney (D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem). We've done everything possible to protect the environment, grow our economy, create jobs and maintain the rural character that makes us the Garden State.

The event was held at the 106-acre Urban Farm, which was preserved in October 2012 for a price of $1,010,800. Funding was provided through the New Jersey Farmland Preservation Program and the Gloucester County Farmland Preservation Program, with assistance from the New Jersey Conservation Foundation (NJCF).

The property has been an active farm since 1938 and is adjacent to 42 acres of previously preserved land. It is one of the last large active farm parcels remaining in West Deptford Township.

The New Jersey Conservation Foundation is proud to be a partner on this project and on many other preservation projects across the state, said Greg Romano, assistant director of NJCF. As we celebrate the success of the Farmland Preservation Program over the past 30 years, we must also look to the future and renew our efforts to protect farms like the Urban Farm and preserve our rich agricultural heritage.

New Jersey has at least an additional 350,000 acres of farmland that need to be preserved to maintain a viable agriculture industry, the state's third largest. Agriculture generates at least 61,000 jobs statewide.

Recent funding for the state's farmland preservation program comes from a 2009 bond referendum that dedicated $400 million for open space, farmland and historic preservation projects throughout the state. However, with funds from the 2009 referendum fully allocated, there are no new state funds available for future farmland preservation projects.

Under Sweeney's leadership, the state Senate voted twice this summer in favor of legislation that proposes a voter referendum to dedicate $200 million in sales tax revenues annually, less than one percent of the state budget, to renew and sustain funding for the Green Acres, Blue Acres, Farmland and Historic Preservation programs. The Assembly has not yet acted.

Funding for the New Jersey Farmland Preservation Program is critical to keeping the garden in the Garden State, said New Jersey Farm Bureau President Ryck Suydam. While the program has made tremendous accomplishments over the past three decades, there is much more work to be done to ensure that families continue to have access to fresh, nutritious, locally grown food for generations to come.

About NJ Keep It Green NJ Keep It Green is a coalition of more than 185 park and conservation advocates 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 or to sign the NJ Keep It Green Statement of Support, visit www.njkeepitgreen.org.

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