Christie signs ‘Fake farmers’ bill into law

TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie signed into law a bill revising farmland assessments and dealing with non-farmers who are taking advantage of them.

A3090/S589 makes various revisions to the “Farmland Assessment Act of 1964.”

The bill would increase the standards in order to qualify for farmland assessment from $500 to $1,000 as the minimum gross sales on the first five acres of land.

The Treasury Department would be required annually to adjust the standards in relation to the Consumer Price Index.

In addition, the state Farmland Evaluation Advisory Committee would review the program every three years and, if necessary, increase those minimums.

The bill is in part a response to complaints about so-called “fake farmers,’’ residents or businesses which enjoy greatly reduced tax assessments by meeting standards that critics say are too low.

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Jennifer Beck and Senate President Steve Sweeney.

In an interview, Beck praised the signing of the bill.

“It’s been a long time coming and it’s a victory for the taxpayers,” she said.

Regarding critics of the bill who said raising the threshold to $1,000 isn’t enough to deter “fake farming,” Beck said that is a relatively small piece of the legislation.

“The heart of the bill is the development of regulations of what constitutes an active working farm,” she said. “That doesn’t exist right now.”

Christie signs ‘Fake farmers’ bill into law