Controversy Arises Over New Jersey Farm Preservation

New Jersey farm preservation program has stirred up controversy in Manalapan Township. New Jersey’s Farmland Preservation Program has been in existence for over thirty years. Over that time, the program has been remarkably successful in defending prime farmland from suburban expansion and development. To date, the program has preserved tens of thousands of acres of rural farmland.

However, this successful program has recently raised some controversy in Manalapan. Earlier this week, county agricultural officials unanimously approved a land deal in which Andrew Lucas will be paid over $1 million to preserve his 96 acre farm, purchased last year.

The farm itself is ideally located in a neighborhood of other preserved farms. Agricultural board chairman Joseph McCarthy pointed out that the soil, the terrain, and the surrounding environment all meet the board’s standards for farm preservation.

The problem with the land deal, however, is that Andrew Lucas is the mayor of Manalapan. Fellow member of the agricultural board Amy Mallet expressed discomfort at the idea of taxpayer money going to elected officials, even if their land meets board criteria.

In addition to these general concerns, the debate is quickly transforming into a partisan issue. Mayor Lucas and several members of the agricultural board are Republicans, while Mallet and fellow board member Michelle Roth are Democrats. Both Roth and Mallet oppose the deal, in part because of concerns over taxpayer money, and in part because Mayor Lucas has yet to disclose how much personal profit he stands to make on the land deal.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer