Farmland Assessment Rules May Tighten

by: Anthony F. Della Pelle
1 Oct 2012

Last week, the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee approved a bill which would increase the amount of income that farmers need to generate annually in order to qualify for “farmland assessment” in New Jersey.  The bill, A-3090, which has several sponsors and a companion bill in the State Senate (S-589), was unanimously endorsed by the Assembly Committee this past Thursday.

If enacted into law, farmers would need to generate $1,000 of annual income to qualify for the lower property tax assessment given to farms of 5 acres or more.  Currently, only $500 of income is required and qualifying uses include the sale of farm goods, timber or rent to others for farm uses including using the land for grazing.

According to an article in New Jersey Spotlight by Colleen O’Dea, representatives of various agriculture and land conservation groups are generally supportive of this proposed legislation.  Farmland assessment practices have been historically questioned as being unfair tax breaks for the wealthy, as many high-profile politicians, celebrities and corporations have enjoyed dramatically reduced property tax bills on their New Jersey properties under this law.  About 1 million acres (more than 15%) of New Jersey land was classified as farmland last year.

Others question whether the bill will, in fact, protect against unwarranted or even fraudulent farmland tax breaks.  A recent editorial in the Gloucester County Times addressed this position in more detail.  The companion bill passed the Senate last June and now proceeds to further Committee Review.