TRENTON, NJ - Legislation co-sponsored by state Sen. Kip Bateman (R-16) and Kristin Corrado (R-40) to fuel farmland preservation in New Jersey was approved Monday by the Senate and Environment Committee.

The bill appropriates more than $32 million in funds that have been constitutionally dedicated by voters for the purpose of farmland preservation.

“Farmland preservation maintains the visibility of the state’s agricultural history for generations to come,” said Bateman, whose district includes municipalities in Somerset, Hunterdon, Middlesex and Mercer counties.. “This bill will allow our children’s children to appreciate the contributions of farmers and the impact of farms and open space on the quality of life in our communities,” he added.

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The money appropriated by the bill will be administered by the State Agriculture Development Committee, with more than $25 million earmarked for purchasing farms for preservation. Other money will fund grants for the up-keep of preserved farms, grants to help counties and towns develop preservation plans, and to establish an electronic database to ease online applications and post-preservation monitoring and inspecting.

“The preservation of New Jersey farms is important to voters who have passed bond acts and a constitutional amendment to dedicate money from the business income tax for this purpose,” said Corrado. “As voters intended, these funds will help protect our identity as the Garden State, saving more precious fields from commercial development. It’s an important investment in our agricultural economy, our farming heritage, and the New Jersey environment.”

More than 2,600 farms have been preserved in the state, sparing 237,000 acres from future development.