promoted by Rosi
The so-called “fake farmers” bill passed out of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee yesterday.
The bill, a signature issue of State Senator Jennifer Beck raises required annual agricultural sales to $1000 per year, up from the current requirement of $500 per year.
The minimum acreage requirement remains at 5 acres which is a plus for new farmers in the state as well as for farmers who lease multiple plots of land from property owners in order to make a go of their farming operations.
New Jersey has some of the most expensive and scarce farmland in the country and with the average age of the New Jersey farmer at 57, maintaining our state’s agricultural heritage and going farming concerns is an increasing challenge as the number of NJ farms increase while the average size of a New Jersey farm decreases.
The bill adds periodic reviews of the minimum sales requirement and annual evidence of agricultural sales is also required. Proof of income or sales must be submitted to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.
Most importantly, tax assessors in farming intensive communities will now be required to be trained on farmland assessment in order to be licensed and the State Board of Taxation and State Board of Agriculture will now issue guidelines to help tax assessors identify and qualify legitimate farming activities.
Fort those interested in such things, the State Board of Agriculture is actually not the same entity as the NJ Department of Agriculture. Governance of the Ag sector in New Jersey is really quite interesting.
In brief, members of the State Board of Agriculture are elected by delegates at New Jersey’s annual state agricultural convention. Board members are then confirmed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the State Senate.
The State Board of Agriculture in turn governs the New Jersey Department of Agriculture. Any hiring or firing of NJ’s Secretary of Agriculture requires the consent of the State Board of Agriculture. It’s a system that’s been in place since 1914 and the formal establishment of the NJ Department of Agriculture.
This system was kept in place even after the state modernized government with the passage of the new NJ State Constitution in 1947.
These changes to NJ’s farmland assessment law have been a long-time in coming.
The bill appears to be a very serious compromise around the very serious issues of open space and fair taxation.
Revenue requirements are higher and the state will now provide some guidance around what legitimate farming operations look like. Just leasing and housing goats to “mow” your lawn will no longer suffice to qualify as a farming activity. At least one would hope.
What I would really liked to have seen in the bill is a minimum holdings requirement that would require lands assessed as farmland to be held in agricultural use for a certain number of years, 5, 10, 15, maybe more. This would ensure prime NJ agricultural lands aren’t simply being banked until the real estate market improves.
Cross-posted at Pocket Farms — Keeping Jersey Fresh