Tuesday, December 05, 2006
From The Star-Ledger :
Move too slowly to buy a house and a competing buyer may grab it, even in this cooling real estate market. The same is true of farmland in the nation's most densely populated state.
State officials -- who have already spent a half-billion dollars preserving farms -- have come to realize this and have proposed new rules to help shorten the time the state can get checks to farmers. Instead of considering only once a year which farms to purchase, officials are considering looking at farms continuously through the year.
"Absolutely, the biggest complaint about the program statewide is the time it takes, particularly when a landowner is working with the county," said Susan Craft, executive director of the State Agriculture Development Committee.
The organizational shift comes just in time as the state has seen more than a three-fold increase in farms preserved annually over the past decade, officials said. By buy ing farm tracts outright and purchasing easements to prevent development, the state has saved some 1,440 farms comprising upwards of 150,000 acres to ensure agriculture stays viable in the Garden State.
"(Farmers) have been a year into the cycle, and then Toll Brothers or K. Hovnanian shows up and offers them more money," Traylor said.
Morris County Preservation Trust Director Frank Pinto called the rule changes "the most significant in the 23 years" of the state- led program. He said the "revolving door" system will give him increased credibility with farmers who want to close quickly.