Agribusiness Grant to Mayor of New Jersey
A decision by the New Jersey State Agricultural Development Committee might result in the mayor of Manalapan receiving over $1 million in taxpayer funds. Mayor Andrew Lucas petitioned for a state Planning Incentive Grant after purchasing a plot of New Jersey farmland.
The Municipal Planning Incentive Grants, as they are known, were created by the state to safeguard the countryside in New Jersey from urban expansion. As urban and suburban areas grew, New Jersey, like many other states, saw a reduction in farmland. Farmers are eligible for PI Grants in exchange for easements on their land that prevent urban expansion.
Mayor Lucas' refusal to reveal the price he paid for the land in question has sparked a land deal dispute. Municipal records do not disclose the price or value of the land because the Limited Liability Company that held the land was purchased directly instead of the land itself. Opponents are concerned that Mayor Lucas is misusing the PI Grant program's intent and that the entire process is lacking in openness.
Supporters, on the other hand, feel that the agreement will protect precious farmland in New Jersey and avoid undesirable urban growth. Given the fervor with which state and federal officials debate the efficacy of agricultural subsidies and grants, some observers argue that the struggle over this particular New Jersey farm is merely a proxy for a bigger argument over farm programs.
While this is a good thing for the environment and for those who want to keep New Jersey rural, not all farmers feel that this is the best use of their land. In addition, some argue that the process by which farmers can get these grants is not transparent enough. This is why a lot of farmers from New Jersey are still trying to get farm financing to help keep their businesses afloat. But with the help of government programs like the Agricultural Development Committee, more farmers are getting the support they need.
The agricultural industry is a vital part of New Jersey's economy, and the state's farmers provide a significant contribution to the food supply. In addition, the agricultural industry supports jobs and provides tax revenue.