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Five-year USDA Census of Agriculture Underscores Farmland Preservation Success

For Immediate Release: June 3, 2004


Jeff Beach




(TRENTON) – New Jersey is preserving farmland at nearly twice the rate it is losing it, according to figures released today in the national Census of Agriculture.

The five-year census figures, taken in 2002 and released by the National Agricultural Statistics Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), showed the state averaging a loss of 10,245 acres per year. In 2003 alone, 20,013 acres were preserved through the Farmland Preservation Program, meeting Governor James E. McGreevey’s goal of preserving 20,000 acres a year.

“These census figures show that our efforts to curb sprawl and protect farmland from development are working,” said Governor McGreevey. “By preserving our farmland, we help ensure our state’s agriculture industry remains strong. Farmland preservation is an important investment in our economy, our farming heritage and the overall quality of life for all New Jerseyans.”

New Jersey Agriculture Secretary Charles M. Kuperus pointed to the most recent full year, 2003, as indicative of the increased pace of the efforts to keep New Jersey’s farms active and vital. In the five years covered by the Census, New Jersey preserved 56,903 acres of farmland while losing a five-year total of 51,227 acres.

“Even at a time when New Jersey real estate is in prime demand, the state’s efforts to retain its agricultural base are paying off in a big way,” said Secretary Kuperus. “It is a testament to the leadership of Governor McGreevey, the support of the Legislature, the proactive efforts of county and municipal governments and the willingness of our citizens to approve preservation bond issues that we have seen this success.

“If you look back as recently as 1998, we preserved 8,649 acres that year. In the years since this Census began, we have now increased to over 20,000 acres in one year. To do that in a low-interest-rate, active real estate market is truly remarkable."

“These trends in saving farmland from development bode well for the future of agriculture in our state, but we must continue to be vigilant and always seek new and improved ways to ensure the viability of our farm economy,” said Secretary Kuperus.

In addition, New Jersey also ranked in the top 10 nationally in the total acres of land devoted to a number of crops. The state ranked second in land for blueberries and fresh-cut herbs; third in cranberries; fourth in peaches, bell peppers and spinach; sixth in squash; eighth in tomatoes; and 10th in nursery, floriculture and sod.

“When you look at how many categories in which New Jersey, a comparatively small state, ranks in the top 10, you understand the diversity of our agricultural landscape, compared to larger states where two or three products make up the vast majority of the agricultural bounty,” said Secretary Kuperus.

For more information on the USDA Census of Agriculture, visit www.usda.gov/nass/