From the Asbury Park Press:
A pair of bills being drafted by state Sen. Jennifer Beck, R-Monmouth, that would revise farmland assessment laws would help keep New Jersey’s agriculture industry productive while preventing wealthy landowners from exploiting the system’s tax loopholes.
But a couple of elements key to ensuring that farming survives — and unwarranted preferential tax treatment does not — must be addressed before the bills become law.
Beck, along with state Sen. Stephen M. Sweeney, D-Gloucester, has introduced a bill that would set standards for crop intensity and livestock capacity that would be used to qualify property for farmland assessment. That would help separate truly productive land from acreage with just enough bee hives or Christmas trees to generate the laughably low $500 in sales currently required to gain a farmland assessment.
Unfortunately, the Beck-Sweeney measure only raises the income threshold to $1,000. It should be closer to $10,000, which would protect legitimate working farmers while weeding out people taking advantage of the tax law.
A second bill Beck has yet to introduce would establish another level of tax benefits for those who want to preserve their land, but wouldn’t qualify for farmland assessment under the new productive-farm rules. For landowners willing to forfeit development rights on their property, the bill would provide a tax break that is lower than working farmers would receive, but higher than landowners who want to retain development rights.