(TRENTON) - Legislation Assembly Democrats Troy Singleton, John Burzichelli, Pamela Lampitt and Bonnie Watson Coleman sponsored to revise the state's farmland assessment standards to ensure only actual farmers receive the benefit was approved 70-4-3 Thursday by the Assembly.
The bill (A-3090), among other things, raises from $500 to $1,000 the minimum gross sales and payments standard for typical agricultural or horticultural lands to qualify for farmland assessment on the first five acres of land.
"All too often we've unfortunately seen landowners take advantage of the outdated $500 limit and find ways to claim they're doing agriculture on the land when in fact they're not actually farming," said Singleton (D-Burlington). "Agriculture is New Jersey's heritage, and we should always be doing what we can to ensure its future success, but we need to also ensure that programs like this benefit only those who are truly doing farming."
"Let's make certain the farmland assessment program only benefits farmers," said Burzichelli (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). "We need strong programs that help farmers through these tough economic times, but we need to make sure only farmers are benefiting from these programs."
"The law establishing this program is nearly 50 years old, and it's past time to close the loopholes to make certain only real farmers benefit from it," said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). "Too many have taken advantage of it to the detriment of taxpayers throughout our state, so let's close this loophole and make sure the program helps only those it was intended to help."
"Taxpayers are tired to hearing about those who take advantage of loopholes to game the system, so changes like this are definitely in order," said Watson Coleman (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). "Farmland assessment benefits should be given only to those who actually farm, not those who put up a greenhouse or plant a few trees. Let's do the right thing and protect New Jersey's agricultural value."
The bill raises from $500 to $1,000 the minimum gross sales and payments standard for typical agricultural or horticultural lands to qualify for farmland assessment on the first five acres of land. The bill requires the State Farmland Evaluation Committee to review these minimums every three years or sooner, and authorizes it to adopt regulations to raise the amount of those minimums to levels the committee determines appropriate.
The bill establishes a civil penalty of up to $5,000 for a gross and intentional misrepresentation on an application to qualify for farmland assessment.
The bill now goes to the Senate for final legislative approval.