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For Immediate Release: March 9, 2005 Contact:

Lynne Richmond

(TRENTON) – New Jersey Agriculture Secretary Charles M. Kuperus today announced a new webpage on the Department of Agriculture’s website, www.state.nj.us/agriculture, that provides a “tool kit” of resources to help municipal governments, businesses, non-profit groups, and local citizens plan to retain agriculture in their communities along with the many benefits it provides.

“As community leaders plan for agriculture, the tool kit will provide them with many tools they can use to help in their efforts,” said Secretary Kuperus. “This user-friendly toolkit is a good starting point in formulating a local plan that acknowledges that productive farmland helps keep municipal taxes down, increases property values, benefits the environment, adds to a community’s character, is part of the state’s heritage, and ensures that New Jersey residents continue to have access to an abundant supply of locally produced fresh food and agricultural products.”

The Agricultural Smart Growth Tool Kit, located at www.state.nj.us/agriculture/toolkit.htm was developed to assist in achieving the goals and objectives outlined in the Agricultural Smart Growth Plan released by the Department in 2003. The plan provides realistic and practical approaches to ensuring that as New Jersey continues to grow, its agricultural industry remains strong. It identifies five linked components to achieving this: Farmland Preservation, Innovative Conservation Planning, Economic Development, Natural Resource Conservation and Agricultural Industry Sustainability.

The tool kit provides hands-on tools in each of these areas. It includes, for example, links for those interested in Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) -- a planning technique that allows local municipalities the ability to transfer growth out of areas they would like to preserve and cluster development in other areas.

Visitors to the site will be able to find information on all the farmland preservation funding opportunities available and the Farm Link program, which helps connect farm owners with new and established farmers seeking access to land and farming opportunities. There is a test for communities to determine if their towns are farm friendly and they can go to a site that will help them conduct a build-out analysis that assists communities to understand what the current zoning will permit if built to capacity.

A number of marketing opportunities for farmers are detailed in the site, and there also is a link to the Department’s 2005 Economic Development strategies for 10 sectors of agriculture. Right to Farm is addressed and information is provided on assistance available to communities, landowners and farmers in protecting their soil and water resources.

“As time goes on, we expect to build upon the tools already contained in the toolkit, continually providing users with the most up-to-date information,” said Secretary Kuperus. “Agriculture must be part of the equation when talking about ‘smart’ planning. By sustaining agriculture, we add to the quality of life enjoyed by New Jersey residents.”