Smart Growth to Protect Rural America

After winning the Governor's seat in New Jersey, Jon Corzine decided to keep a Republican in the position of Agriculture Secretary. It was a good move. Charlie Kuperus has held the position in 2002 and has won broad support from both parties for his support of a number of measures in support of rural New Jersey.

One of Kuperus' best accomplishments has been his role in New Jersey's adoption of an agricultural smart growth plan. According to The New Jersey Herald, the plan has protected 668 farms and over 50,000 acres in the last four years.

The plan involves a number of provisions. The state purchases development rights from some farmers, permanently protecting farms while passing resources to farmers to reinvest in their farms. Where growth is spreading to rural areas, it is channelled into higher density development to prevent farmland encroachment. The state also assists with the selling of farm products, by identifying markets and helping with marketing.

In addition, the state has worked toward agricultural sustainability by assisting with the implementation of riparian buffers, filter strips, contour buffer strips, and grass waterways. New Jersey has also taken a strong lead in fighting exploitation of workers in farm country.

The agenda represents a strong step toward protecting agricultural lands that has been embraced by Republicans and Democrats alike.

Oregon has not fared so well recently in the smart growth game. For year, Oregon's land use planning rules have been envied by many around the country for the extent to which they protected open space and rural character. In 2004, voters passed an initiative -- Measure 37 -- requiring that landowners be compensated for the effects of regulations that lessened the value of the property or that the regulations be waived. That initiative has now withstood a court challenge.

In the aftermath of Measure 37's passage, similar proposals were crafted in Arizona, Idaho, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, and Oklahoma. Measures have also been advanced in Colorado, Maine, Montana, New Mexico, and Wisconsin. No law in the U.S., though, is as far-reaching as Oregon's, which took that state from one of the leaders in land use planning to an outlier.

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