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Living with the Future in Mind
Goals and Indicators for New Jersey's Quality of Life
First Annual Update to the Sustainable State Project Report 2000

Indicator 34


Additional  Protected Natural Resources Indicators

34 - Energy Consumption

36 - Beach Closings

37 - Preserved and Developed Land

Farmland

Total acres of farmland in New Jersey: Decreasing

  Things to think about 

As of 1998, only 7 percent of the state’s farmland had been preserved from development. The other 93 percent remains open to future development.

Despite existing farmland preservation programs, other alternatives are needed for landowners who often face financial pressure to sell their farmland to commercial developers. They should have better incentives to sell it instead to other farmers, government, or to preservation groups.

The sprawl created by subdivisions in former farming areas contributes to traffic congestion, longer drives, and air pollution.

In 1998, New Jersey voters overwhelmingly passed a referendum to spend $98 million per year for the next ten years to preserve one million acres of the state’s remaining open space and farmland.

 

Importance

New Jersey is called the Garden State because its soil and climate make it one of the most productive farming areas in the world. Our farms provide fresh local produce and beautiful vistas, and recharge our groundwater. Because farmland brings in more revenue than it costs in local services, it helps keep property taxes low. New Jersey’s farmland is diminishing. Far from yielding to forests or parks, though, in many cases this former farmland has been paved and replaced by strip malls and tract housing.

Economic

Agriculture is the third largest industry in New Jersey. To keep farming economically viable requires large continuous blocks of farmland. New development often changes the character of rural areas and threatens to drive remaining farmers out of business. The loss of farmland to new residences frequently heralds property tax increases. As we compete nationally and internationally to attract top workers and businesses, we must prevail over competitors based in part on the quality of life that our surroundings offer. A state with too many strip malls will stand at a disadvantage.

Environmental

Crops and farmland offer habitat for birds, other wildlife, and a host of insects and small creatures that perform functions like pollination and decomposition. Farmlands, when worked responsibly, filter pollutants from the water and air, and even play a role in increasing the absorption of rains and preventing floods. Eating fresh local produce is healthy and reduces the energy required for long-haul transportation.

Social

Attractive vistas and open spaces are associated with our state’s farming tradition. The Garden State is becoming less and less of an apt description of New Jersey as the state loses its agricultural landbase. Instead, sprawling and homogeneous developments are driving the state’s unique rural communities into extinction. Preserving our farmland preserves our heritage.

Knowledge Gaps

This indicator shows the amount of farmland, but not economic viability. We also have little data on the percent of our local and total food production, or other agricultural production, that comes from unsustainable and fossil-fuel dependent methods of farming.

 Data Source: NJ Agricultural Statistics Service

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Copyright © State of New Jersey, 1996-2006
Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Modified: May 1, 2007

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