We think of farms as always being there. Food will always be grown. Our countryside will be full of cows and crops just like it always has been. The fact is that this may not be true. Farmers are faced with the growing costs to run their farms. These costs include taxes, insurance, and regular farm costs. When we visited a farm, the farmer said that this was one of his main concerns…. and not the weather conditions like we thought. Farmers are being offered big money to sell their farms. Companies that are building lots of houses and condominiums buy up farm land so that city people can move into the country. They break up the farm land into smaller pieces of land. In the picture on the right, you will see an example of how housing developments are gradually taking over valuable farm land. With more people traveling and moving into the country, more roads need to be built. Roads take up land, too. Many times the land is farmland. So, the farmer is offered lots of money to sell their land.
The high taxes and farm costs make this look good to farmers. Another big threat is roads that go around cities. These are called loops or bypasses. These use up farm land, parks, and green spaces edging our cities. This has had a terrible track record over the past few years, although many mayors and members of Congress now want to build more. As a nation, we should stop giant highways and promote new transportation that helps the economy and the environment.
We interviewed former Congressman and former head of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority Neil Gallagher who said, “New Jersey used to make awful smells that would spread across the area from a major pig farm in Secaucus. A plan then was made by Governor Al Driscoll to run a highway through New York State to the crossing of the Delaware River to take out the traffic on Highway Number 1. In order to build these roadways, all the roads had to connect and pass through Secaucus which had to be the hub of the highway. In order to do this, the government had to buy all the pig farms in Secaucus.” Mr. Gallagher remembers that several laws were passed:
A new organization was formed called the New Jersey Turnpike Authority. Creation of an organization that would buy the farms at a fair price. Allowing the turnpike to sell bonds to raise money to buy the land and build the road. The bonds would be paid for by the tolls that were collected on the turnpike. [Two thirds of the money came from out-of-state drivers.] The result of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority closing down the farms was that we lost the farm land, and the new use of that land resulted in the greatest economic boom that the state of New Jersey had ever seen. The road itself created all new jobs throughout the state and in Secaucus itself.
Let’s use the New Jersey Meadowlands sports complex as an example. This land became some of the most valuable land in the metropolitan area when the Meadowlands [including Giant Stadium, the race track, and Continental Arena] was built where pig farms used to be. Mr. Gallagher feels that, “Sometimes the price of progress is finding a better use of land that benefits more people at the expense of a more rural and quiet way of life. The threat to farming had to be raised for the people of the state. This is one example, but a balance does have to be set from nature and a growing society.” Many people would agree with Mr. Gallagher’s statements and many others would not. No matter where you stand on the loss of valuable farmland to development, you need to always be concerned about the future of our farming communities.